❉ Nudity, covens, blood and breasts!
Jane is having nightmares, nightmares so bad they seem to be spilling over into her waking life. Like anyone in this situation, Jane decides the best way to take control of her subconscious is to attend a Black Mass, complete with animal sacrifices.
Wait, what? That makes no sense. I have nightmares, but I’ve never thought “oh, better sacrifice a dog, then,” which seems to be Jane’s novel solution to her problem. That she’s attending with a friend she only met the day before should be something of a clue as to the nature of what she’s letting herself in for, but Jane doesn’t really seem to make the sort of decisions that any rational human would make. In all honesty, Jane doesn’t seem to make any decisions at all, things just happen to her, and not because she’s the sort of person that things happen to, but because she’s stuck in a particularly insane giallo and that’s what the script says is going to happen, so happen it will.
This film makes no sense.
I realise that’s a valid criticism of almost any film in the genre, and I must confess that I’m not really the greatest giallo admirer there is, but even by Italian standards this is a bonkers film. The main issue I have is that what’s happening isn’t in any way frightening, which is pretty much the only thing I expect a horror film to do. Ideally I’d like to be disturbed, but disturbing films are few and far between, so I’ll settle for shocked, held in suspense even, but none of that happens here. Yes, the dream/nightmare sequences are very well filmed, and yes I realise that as Jane is the protagonist we’re seeing much of the film through her eyes, which explains at least the oneiric quality present throughout, even in scenes which aren’t supposed to be strange, but the plot is so supremely odd that it’s distracting – rather than soak in the atmosphere the viewer spends most of the running time trying to work out just what the hell is supposed to be happening.
The final twenty minutes have to be seen to be believed as the three possibilities that have been dangled before us (Jane’s mad; Jane is the victim of the most esoteric Satanic cult in history; something rational that has yet to be explained is happening) are resolved and all turn out to be true in their own way. It doesn’t help that the film doesn’t seem to build up to any kind of resolution anyway – things just happen for a while, and when the director thinks there’s enough in the can things just stop. An attempt at explaining what’s happening is offered, there’s a sort of twist ending which confuses things even further, and then the film finally ends mid-scene. I’ve seen films before where the plot coheres. This is the anti-version of that; the plot doesn’t cohere, it spirals away in several different directions at once. It’s not clever, it’s not confusing, it’s just lazy.
Some have dismissed this as a poor clone of Rosemary’s Baby, which suggests they never bothered to watch this all the way through (there are no Demonic pregnancies here); if anything, it’s a mondo version of Repulsion (and then only because a fair bit of it is set in a London flat), but in reality this isn’t a clone of anything, it’s just a series of set pieces which come from entirely different jigsaws and fail to complete a picture at all.
Mind you, there’s lots of nudity, covens, blood and breasts, so if that’s the kind of thing you like, you’ll probably love it.
Restored in HD, the picture is slightly soft, although that seems to have been a stylistic choice by the director and cinematographer, perhaps to emphasise the dreamlike nature of the film.
The DVD offers the dialogue in the original Italian, with new English subtitles, or dubbed into English (although, oddly, the print used is quite clearly Spanish).
Extras include an interview with the director and a commentary by genre experts Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan.
❉ Limited numbered collector’s edition
❉ Italian and English Audio
❉ Optional English subtitles
❉ 95 mins
❉ Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
❉ A brand new Shameless interview with director Sergio Martino
❉ Released by Shameless Screen Entertainment on 29 May 2017. Format: Blu-ray and DVD (Catalogue number: SHAM206/SHAM049), Cert. 18. Running time: 95 mins