Director: Lamberto Bava
Starring. Michele Soavi, Andrew Occhipinti, Fabola Toledo, Anny Papa. Italy. 1h 50m.
The literal translation of the title is The House with the Dark Staircase which is a little bit more appropriate; at least for the opening scene. Initially cast as a mini-series the film was scraped by Italian TV moguls for being too violent, so re edited as a much shorter film.
Starting with a peculiar scene a groups of boys dare each other to go down some dark stairs (hence the name) eventually one of the boys is forced down into the darkness where he meets his grisly fate, from there Bava leisurely sets the pace of a whodunit with some impressive jump scares.
Bruno (Occhipinti ) is tasked to compose a soundtrack for a new horror movie and to help him focus on the task he hires a small villa for a few weeks but several of the tenants and neighbours are murdered by a sharp object wielding slasher and a strange neighbour attracts a lot of attention due to his unusual behaviour.
Slowly new characters are introduced, and every time Bruno gets closer to finding out the secret of this killer another person is wiped out in a gruesome manner, the most memorable is a Hitchcock style bloody rendezvous in a bathroom, where a woman is washing her hair and soon becomes a blood spurting victim, it’s a touch Grand Guignol , but Bava didn’t really go as far an fellow countryman Argento with the violence, not for trying, but his is a stunning segment of gore.
The final twist is left for the very end ,but by then the cast has been whittled down to only a few characters so it just about becomes obvious but there is still a slight masking of the character so expect a final “a ha” moment, and this dispatching is another fine moment.
Despite the odd flaw, probably coming from condensing down an epic to half it’s length this is still one of the better and more memorable Giallo films, with lots of tension and fairly good drama to pad it out in between, it’s not the most frivolous with colour and over the top dramatics, and the soundtrack is great but not Goblin-esque impressive, still it’s something to be thoroughly enjoyed.
It would have been really interesting to see this merge through two films, or even as a mini-series, Columbo style sleuthing going on but the final cut(s) seem to make a decent Giallo slasher, maybe not with as much blood and intrigue as most would require but I found it quite rousing.
R – Barbarian Sound Studio (), the New York Ripper (1985), Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)
L – A-Z of Giallo Vol.1