Sink your fangs into a host of Italian horror classics

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While browsing the web recently, I stumbled upon a few old and, in some cases, really old Italian horror films. These movies take “creepy” to a whole new level. Some are pretty ridiculous by today’s standards, but they featured cutting edge technology when they were released.

As long as you have the stomach for it, you’ll probably find them entertaining and quite different from standard American fare. There are two contemporary Italian films at the end to bring you full circle.

For straight up horror, check these three out:

“Bloody Pit of Horror” (Il Boia Scarlatto) is a 1965 Italian gothic horror film based on the writings of Marquis de Sade and directed by Massimo Pupillo. The film, set in Italy, stars Mickey Hargitay, Walter Brandi, Luisa Baratto and Rita Klein, and tells the story of a group of women modeling for a photo shoot when the owner of the castle turns against them.

To view, click here.

In the 1960 film “Atom Age Vampire,” an exotic dancer is disfigured in a car accident. A scientist develops a treatment that restores her beauty and, while doing so, falls in love with her. To keep up her appearance, the doctor has to continue treatments using glands taken from murdered women. His ability to turn into a monster simplifies that task but no matter what he does, he cannot win her love.

To view, click here.

In Abel Ferrara’s 1979 film “The Driller Killer,” an artist slowly loses his mind as he and his two female friends struggle to make ends meet. Demand from his art dealer to complete a new painting coupled with the punk rock band downstairs that keeps him from concentrating are slowing driving him mad. When his art dealer laughs at his creation, the artist snaps and takes revenge on the people who drove him to insanity. The title suggests how he pursues that revenge. Warning: Adult language and situations. Viewer discretion advised.

To view, click here.

I found this 1911 version of Dante’s “Inferno,” also known as the world’s oldest surviving feature-length film, just fascinating and super creepy.

To view, click here.

The 1922 silent film, “Foolish Wives,” is an American production but this version has Italian title charts. The costumes are magnificent, so for this reason, I consider it a great Halloween find. Distributed by Universal Pictures and written and directed by Erich von Stroheim, the 1922 drama was the most expensive film made at that time, and billed by Universal Studios as the “first million-dollar movie” to come out of Hollywood. Originally, von Stroheim intended the film to run anywhere between 6-10 hours, and be shown over two evenings, but Universal executives opposed this idea. The studio bosses cut the film drastically before the release date.

To view, click here.

Another great film for costumes and just plain intrigue is the 1921 Italian science fiction film, “The Mechanical Man” (Italian: L’uomo meccanico). Directed by André Deed, it is one of the first science fiction films produced in Italy, and the first film that showed a battle between two robots. The original film was about 80 minutes in length. However, only about 26 minutes of footage remains.

The story begins with a scientist creating a device shaped like a man that can be remote-controlled by a machine. The mechanical man possesses super-human speed and strength. The scientist is killed by a gang of criminals led by a woman named Mado, who wishes to get the instructions for building the mechanical man. The criminals are captured before they are able to get them and are brought to trial and condemned. Managing to escape, Mado kidnaps the scientist’s niece ahd force her to relinquish uer uncles instructions.

Controlled by Mado, the mechanical man is used for a variety of crimes. The scientist’s brother, however, is successful in creating a second mechanical man which he uses to combat the original. The two mechanical men fight each other in an opera house, which leads to the dramatic ending.

To view, click here.

If you’re looking for something modern, check out “A Classic Horror Story” on Netflix. The newly released Italian thriller was co-directed by Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli and follows five people car-pooling in a camper. After an accident, they find themselves trapped in a new and terrifying reality. The twist at the end will probably take you by surprise.

To view, click here.

We profiled actor Marcello Fonte last year. His 2018 film, “Dogman,” remains one of the creepiest contemporary films I’ve seen. The film tracks the downward spiral of the main character, Marcello, a single father who owns a small dog grooming business in a poor suburb. A timid, isolated man, Marcello gets mixed up with the wrong crowd while trying to make extra money selling drugs. His close relationship with his daughter and his passion for harboring animals are jeopardized when hoodlums begin taking advantage of his kind nature. The constant torment at the hands of an unstable, violent neighborhood bully, magnificently played by Edoardo Pesce, soon becomes unbearable, and Marcello loses everything. After serving time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, he finally reaches the breaking point and does what no one ever thought he was capable of doing. This suspenseful modern masterpiece offers an unblinking view of the emotional damage wrought by bullying as seen through the fear and desperation of the victim.

To rent or buy “Dogman” from Amazon, click here.

The films on this list are sure to give you the spookiest of Halloweens. Buona visione!




About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L'Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film "Gelsomina," which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC's "Special Report" following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.

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