Old Italian Horror Movies? Yes, Please!

Published on October 22nd, 2013 in: Culture Shock, Halloween, Horror, Listicles, Movies, Top Five Lists |

By Jeffery X Martin


Halloween is coming. You will watch horror movies. You will do so for reasons you yourself do not comprehend. You will do so because the leaves have turned colors. You will do so because fear is now a corporate commodity. You will do so because it is what society demands.

This year, make a small stand. Put some effort into your scary movie watching. Do not pretend an unkillable man-child in a hockey mask is scary. Do not act like slow zombies are a threat to you in any way. Seek out something new, even if it is a few years old.

This year, go Italian.

The great New Wave of Italian Horror has been over for a while, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great movies in there that a lot of people haven’t seen. Here are some I think you’ll enjoy, because I personally know you so well and have all of your best interests in mind.

All the Colors of the Dark (1972)

Edwige Fenech was the most beautiful thing about the Seventies. She was funny, gorgeous and had no compunctions about on-screen nudity. That woman had more bush than the hedge maze at the Overlook Hotel. In this movie, she plays a woman recovering from a car accident. She’s lucky to have survived, but she keeps having vivid Fellini-esque nightmares. She’s also being stalked by a guy with a knife. How’s your week going? Her attempts at healing herself are where the horror lies in this movie, as it goes off the deep end in ways you shouldn’t know much about before watching the movie (could it be . . . Satan?).

The Church (1989)

Back during the Crusades, the Knights Templar were like the Seal Team Six of heathen killers. They exterminated a village full of witches and the evil was so palpable, the only way to combat it was to put all the bodies into a mass grave and build a Catholic church over it. This makes sense to me. It seems balanced, if nothing else.

In modern times, the church’s artwork is being restored and new research conducted about its history. The legend of the mass grave is recounted, and there is discussion about how terrible it would be if that grave were opened.

Hey, guess what?

The grave gets opened.

Goat orgies and a twelve year old Asia Argento figure importantly in the antics, which are as awesome as they are totally unbelievable.

Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978)

Italians are well known for their love of cannibals in the jungle movies. Some of them have been highly controversial. They can be racist, there are sometimes scenes of actual violence to animals and they are generally distasteful and gruesome. Of course, I have a favorite one, and Mountain of the Cannibal God is it. Boy, this one has everything.

Ursula Andress hires some renegade types (like Stacy Keach) to take her into the Amazon to find her missing husband. They find danger and intrigue! It’s kind of like Raiders of the Lost Ark, with less action and more everything else. Full frontal nudity, eating human beings and pig fucking, it’s all right here in one gloriously lurid package. Gird up thy loins and dive into this madness.

StageFright: Aquarius (1987)

Four out of five dentists agree: the thing missing from most slasher movies is musical sequences. Dancing, costumes, saxophone solos, that old razzmatazz. Well, if you’re one of those dentists, have I got a movie for you!

StageFright: Aquarius focuses on a theatrical troupe rehearsing a musical, which seems to be a Jack the Ripper story with music by QuarterFlash. There’s the usual backstage drama.

“I hate this costume.”
“I don’t like that lead actress; she’s a bitch.”
“I don’t want this baby.”

Then, the guy wearing the… wait for it… OWL COSTUME… begins slaughtering everyone. It’s like watching a human-sized Hedwig go berserk with an axe. The creativity in the death scenes is off the charts here, with a variety of power tools being implemented in the nastiest of ways. It’s lots of fun, and that saxophone reminds you of the power of sweet, sweet soul music, even amidst all the carnage.

The Sister of Ursula (1978)

Two mysterious sisters check into a beautiful seaside resort for some rest and relaxation. Everyone is shady here: the resort owner, the lounge singer, the lounge singer’s boyfriend and his attractive heroin addiction. Everybody has an ulterior motive for something, even if they themselves don’t know what it is. Our main characters, the two sisters, have Daddy Issues. The graphic ways in which they get worked out make this one of the more controversial of the Italian horror movies.

The movie drips. Every scene is awash in sweat, sleaze, gore or some other human secretion. That perverse attention to detail propels The Sister of Ursula onto any horror must-see list. If Tennessee Williams had written Italian horror, this would have been his crowning masterpiece. Your parents would not have let you watch this movie when you were younger. It’s time to rectify that. (The entire movie is viewable on YouTube, but there are neither subs nor dubs, so it’s not in English. You can just figure it out by looking at it, or if you simply enjoy seeing blood and nudity.)

Fight the system. Go outside the norm. Watch some foreign horror this season. There are no summer camps and no found footage, but plenty of fun for those with the stomach for it.

One Response to “Old Italian Horror Movies? Yes, Please!”

  1. Tim Murr:
    October 24th, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I too share your love of Italian splatter, but have not your depth of knowledge! On your list I’ve only seen The Church. I’ve always wanted to see Stage Fright, but I’ve never found a copy. I’m going to have to find all these on line now. Good list, but I’m shocked to see no Fulci!

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