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"No more kiss kiss for you "

May 30th, 2010

This past Monday left me reeling with a devastating loss, it was the season finale of Lost. I was satisfied with the ending it was given (I know many were disappointed at the lack of answers) but was left with a desire to find something to fill the gap, something to pass the time while I mourn never being able to return to the island. This is what lead me to Dario Argento's latest flick. He was known for crafting films that contained mysteries so I sat down to watch a season of his movies. Unfortunately Giallo was a poor substitute for Lost.

It's known among the horror community that Argento's glory days are behind him. We are no longer given greats like Deep Red or Susperia but pale imitations of his glory days. Even so I have always found something to love in these modern tales. I absolutely enjoyed Sleepless and Mother Of Tears for the over the top nonsense that it was. Who of you out their isn't interested in seeing killer dwarfs and manic monkeys? Argento stated that Giallo was to be a return to the glory days of old by returning to the sub genre that the film is named after.

For those of you out there who are not familiar with the giallo genre that sprang up in the late 70's, early 80's of Italian horror films I'll give you a brief run down. Giallo was the name given to films that were based on the pulp fiction books of Italy. Giallo literally means the colour yellow in Italian and was given as it was the colour most pulp books covers came in. The stories would revolve around a mysterious killer (usually wearing black gloves) whose identity isn't revealed until late in the film. The deaths scenes are extremely graphic and prolonged. The music is loud and brash and unlike most movies you are completely aware of its presence. Oh and for the perverts out there, tons of nudity. Yes, this was Italy's Grind House.

Giallo gets its name from the killer of the piece; our villain who at first is only briefly glimpsed has a strange yellowing of the skin. Driving around Italy stalking his pray he abducts beautiful women and forces them to watch as he mutilates his last kidnapee (is that a word? it works anyway). His latest victim turns out to be a famous model and a troubled detective teams up with her sister to track down her location before "Giallo" finds a new girl to replace her.

The thing about these type of movies is that their stories are hardly original but we don't watch them for originality but to see the different way things are presented – much like the slasher film. Giallo unfortunately is not a Giallo film despite being sold as one, it fails all the trademarks and becomes nothing more than a glorified episode of CSI (I hate that show by the way).

As I said earlier Argento's movies are poor but I am able to find something fun in each piece. Cool deaths, interesting stories, great music. What happened here? This is not a return to form and this is not even in the same calibre as his last three films.

The look of the film is very modern but it lacks that filmic quality and looks more like it was produced for TV. Many of Argento's films have a theatrical feel to them. Every action is over exaggerated, the way the killer wields a blade, the postitoning of actors, delivery of dialogue and so on – they are all here but due to the look of the film it just doesn't work this time around. The sets are real, the colours are bland and call for a more realistic portrayal of events but here things are in opposition of each other.

The music just plain sucks. No effort has been put into creating anything original and you'd be hard pressed to pick it out while watching. I know in previous reviews I've written for the site that a successful soundtrack is one you don't notice but helps convey emotional weight to a scene. Giallo films are an exception to this rule, part of the fun comes from the difference in style so you should be aware of the music. Also in taking the soundtrack for what it was it failed to bring out any feeling of dread or tension.

The death scenes were poorly executed despite being set up in a torture porn setting. As I mentioned before the death scenes are usually prolonged, yes it takes the victim a long time to die but the focus is more upon the chase. Here we get brief scenes before cutting away (not to say what we see isn't graphic) a hammer to the face, a finger cut off and a lip cut off. That's about it, it was dull.

While all those things failed to create a convincing Giallo film it would have been fine if the story played out in a convincing way. I wouldn't have given it a top score but it would have been a passable, a time filler film but this is bad.

I have to issue a spoiler warning as I will be discussing the mystery set up in the film and my absolute disappointment in it so SPOILERS ahead. The killer in this film throughout the first 45 minutes is never seen in full profile, just his hands (no black gloves this time but that's fine as that part of Giallo was getting silly) or his eyes blocked by another object. The entire time I knew I had seen this man before; his voice sounded familiar but I decided to ignore it – that was until we were introduced to the main character.

Adrian Brody plays the detective in charge of tracking the killer down and at once I realised he was the killer. That was fine, it hadn't ruined the film and there might be an explanation that justified it. He may have been driven crazy by his own terrible past or it may have been his twin brother (it's possible this is similar to soap opera story telling) I was willing to let it slide until I found out they really were supposed to be separate characters.

You see the killer was played by Brody under heavy prosthetics to make him look ugly (yes I see the paradox there). As they were to be separate characters or to be used as a fake out for the audience (Argento does this a lot) the character is credited as Byron Diedra which is an anagram for Adrian Brody. The thing is halfway through the film the killer is revealed to the audience so why there was need to conceal who he was I'll never know. We are never really introduced to more characters than the two leads which is why it's never viable that this could be anyone else.

What amazes me the most is the portrayal of the killer whose dialogue ranges from the ridiculous to the offensive. Brody's Inspector is meant to have been brought up in New York but the killer is an Italian. The murderer spouts the most clichéd dialogue which more benefits a 1960's mob boss. From "Ah shut uppa your mouth" to "Kapishe" I really thought I was watching a dubbed movie despite the fact that this was filmed in English.

Once we reach the end of the film (which has the most anticlimactic ending I have seen for years) we are left with many questions. Why did the killer become a killer? Why did he want to kidnap the girl's sister? What did the model whisper in the killer's ear? What was the mystery of the movie that needed to be solved? The film itself essentially lacks a mystery and I don't know if Argento meant this to be ironic in an attempt to send up the Giallo films of old or not, but it doesn't make for good viewing.

Apparently Dario Argento has disowned the final cut of this film which had been edited by the producers. Maybe one day we'll see what Argento intended (better get a move on… he's pretty old) but you have to question a film in which both your main leads dropped out at the last minute (Ray Liotta and Asia Argento). With so many pointless things left unanswered at the end of the film it makes you appreciate how well crafted Lost's mysteries were. Oh and there's no nudity in this one. 3/10

Argento's first feature that wasn't written by him (although he did touch ups)
Asia Argento quit production as she was pregnant
Vincent Gallo was originally set to play Giallo

Director: Dario Argento
Screenplay: Jim Agnew, Sean Keller, Dario Argento
Released: 2009
Rating: 18 (Region 1 release)
Starring: Adrien Brody, Emmanuelle Seigner, Elsa Pataky

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