Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last House In The Woods- New Italian Horror on DVD

If you want to get me excited, drop the name Sergio Stivaletti into a conversation. I know his special effects are not always perfect, but he believes in getting his hands VERY dirty and his physical effects always satisfy my lust for Eurohorror thrills. So, I was shocked to see the recent Ghost House Underground DVD, The Last House In The Woods, includes his name as not only effects man but also as a producer.
I needed to see it...just as soon as someone returned the sole copy at the rental shop. I lucked out and grabbed this up, and I can say that it certainly does warrant a rent from any Italian horror fanatic. A classic? No. A splatterfest? At times... A throwback to the glory years? A bit.

Il Bosco fuori (The Forest Outside) starts off in classic euroTRASH fashion as a family gets trapped on a lonely road, only to end up getting smashed (literally) and pummelled to death. Dad and mum go down in front of their son...but what happens to the little boy that sees the Giallo Killer?
It ain't pretty...

After the engaging start, things meander as we meet our protaganists, Aurora and Rino. She is pretty and likes to draw with crayons while Rino gives her the what for. Sure. Rino however...well, he comes off as a fairly pathetic loser that can't get his head around the inevitable break up. The pair go off on a lonely road to talk and have more senseless, and off screen, sex.

Of course, while crayon gal and Mr. Please Take Me Back are chatting we meet three idjits that tripped over a few decades and fell out of Demons. They are just looking for some action and find our emotionally conflicted friends. They try to rape the girl, but are stopped as a passing motorist threatens to kill them. The motorists seem so nice...they offer to help the pair out. Rino got a beating and needs a little rest.

A shame that their house is way out in the woods. And their son is wearing the kid dentures from Phenomena!! Oh, and the pair are ooky...really ooky. AND...they keep some deformed dudes with chainsaws on the property.

Now, we could go on with the plot, but once you get to the chainsaws I'm both sold and happy.
Director Gabriele Albanesi has his heart in the right place and his blood bib firmly secured so that Stivaletti gets to work plenty of his particular magic. The gore flows as chainsaw dismemberments, gunshots and stiff beatings are passed around. And this is all good, just the Stivaletti contributions make the film worth watching. However, and perhaps this is a throwback to a large portion of 80's eurohorror, the pacing is way off. It is really slow (instead of suspenseful) for a good stretch. But all is forgiven by the end of the 88 minutes.

Made with very little funds, you can obviously see everyone putting an extra effort in to making it a worthwhile film. It is weird that most reviews of this film I've stumbled across relate this to a Giallo. It is in no way like a giallo. This is straight up Eurotrash, more a hybrid Texas Chainsaw Massacre by way of Andrea Bianchi would be more suitable. Maybe that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but that is high praise from me. So, I can't complain.

Well, I can complain about one thing. I can't believe this was released, but THE TORTURER, directed by Lamberto Bava and even gorier than this film, is just sitting on a shelf (and Russian dvd). Somebody point Tapert and Ghost House that way please!

I did learn a lesson about the place of music in Italian horror. I can overlook many many small problems with a movie. I can overlook many big ones, such as the dubbing on the film. But MUSIC is a key ingredient. Dario Argento's horror films would not have been as good without Goblin in my mind. No way, no how, would a classical horror score helped Suspiria become the eurohorror classic it is. Even in the often maligned 80s I can name several composers that I will happily buy up on CD. Carlo Maria Cordio, Al Festa (yes, Fatal Frames guy) and Stefano Mainetti are always in my musical playlists. So, can Filippo Barbieri and Federico Bruno pull this part of the equation off?
Sort of. I loved this score-I want it on CD. Fantastic in some parts and eerie in others-it is almost a trance version of a deranged 80s horror soundtrack. However, it fails the film. The movie isn't spooky...ever. It is over the top and when you place this music beside the visuals it detracts from the intensity of the images. A shame, because the two elements stand apart very well-but don't come together for me.

So...go rent it. Enjoy seeing Sergio Stivaletti bring the pain as he usually does and take it as a tribute to an era that has perhaps gone by. I don't think I'll be going back for more, but as a one shot viewing, this is an entertaining chainsaw throwdown.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Surprised as hell to see this on the shelves at Wal-Mart but no PIECES. I'll definitely add this to my NF queue. I always dig his effects work.