Category Archives: Italian Horror



Director Dario Argento

Starring Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, Eleonora Giorgi

Scott’s Review #1,372

Reviewed June 27, 2023

Grade: B+

Any fan of famous Italian horror director Dario Argento knows to expect a visual extravaganza from his films. They reek of color and a weird atmosphere that makes them distinguishable from other less crafty directors and that’s worth a lot to a cinema fan.

Inferno (1980) is no exception but to be fair the plot is brutal to follow as the visuals easily surpass the storytelling. On the flip side, despite being set mainly in New York City, Inferno has a definitive Italian vibe.

And why shouldn’t it since it’s shrouded in Italian creativity?

Fans of Argento will know what I’m saying and leap into the film as I did, immersed in art direction rather than a defined plot.

The film is the second in his “Three Mothers” trilogy, and Inferno focuses on a Manhattan apartment building inhabited by a deadly spirit that murders the tenants in sadistic ways.

The other two films in the collection are Suspiria (1977) and Mother of Tears (2007).

When a poet named Rose (Irene Miracle) discovers a book that suggests she’s living in a building built for one of three evil sisters to rule the world, she begs her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) to visit her from Rome.

But when he arrives, she’s disappeared without a trace. Mark encounters several creepy characters as he attempts to unravel the mystery and find his sister either dead or alive.

It takes some time to figure out who the main character is supposed to be. Is it Rose, Mark, Mark’s friend Sara, or Rose’s neighbor, Elise? Before long three of the four are sliced into bits.

The kills are superior with my personal favorite being the death of one character guillotined with the glass of a broken window. This is nearly usurped by a pack of snarling cats attacking another victim with murder on their minds.

As a cat lover, this made me grin with pleasure.

As alluded to earlier, the story is simply too hard to follow. Therefore, the showdown between the main character and the witch is a letdown and it is uncertain what becomes of the witch.

I also desired to see the witch more.

But maybe I just wasn’t paying too close attention. The gorgeous sets caught my attention more than any plot point did.

I was especially enamored by the gothic New York City apartment set which takes center stage during most of the film. The blue velvet curtains and dimly lit corridors combined with desolate corners and few inhabitants made me want to stay there.

Especially appealing is a secret hole in the wall that carries sounds throughout the behemoth building.

The colors and the camerawork successfully add eerie and memorable sequences. One can easily dine on a bright green wall and gush over a deep blood-red drape or shadow.

The gloomy and downright scary underwater sequence when Rose dives to grasp a secret key is brilliant camerawork.

Alida Valli, so good as one of the witches in Suspiria, makes her return in Inferno but in a limited part. As Carol, an employee of the apartment building, she has little substance to do, and adding insult to injury Valli’s voice is dubbed by an American voice.

Sure, it’s not the best in the Argento collection and Suspiria will always remain my number one but Inferno (1980) is for the Argento fans only. I wouldn’t suggest it for the novice fan nor stress that one needs to see the trilogy in order.

The labyrinthine settings and the elaborate deaths are what make the film a winner.

Mother of Tears-2007

Mother of Tears-2007

Director Dario Argento

Starring Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeno

Scott’s Review #1,360

Reviewed May 13, 2023

Grade: B+

Mother of Tears (2007) is a film I have a great fondness for and I’ll never forget its debut in my life. It is the very first film my husband and I saw in a movie theater together. So, I’m pretty partial to the nostalgic feeling it emotes on a personal level.

Both fans of esteemed horror director Dario Argento, we cohabitated in the dusty art theater one rainy Saturday evening following a delicious Italian dinner on one of our first dates.

The atmosphere was nearly as perfect as an Argento film itself since he is known for operatic, visceral, and visual perfections.

The film is the concluding installment of Argento’s supernatural horror trilogy The Three Mothers, preceded by Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980), and depicts the confrontation with the final “Mother” witch, known as Mater Lachrymarum.

Grisly deaths await several unlucky Italian citizens after an American archaeology student named Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) innocently releases a demonic witch from her ancient prison. A mysterious urn comes into her possession and when attempted to be restored at the Museum of Ancient Art in Rome, all hell breaks loose.

Sarah harbors a personal connection to the witch since her mother was once embroiled in a feud with her.

Making Mother of Tears a family affair and comfort for viewers of Argento’s work, daughter Asia plays the lead character while younger brother Claudio co-produces the picture along with Dario.

Religion is always a fun theme in horror, especially in the oft-targeted Roman Catholic church. Like The Exorcist did in 1973, and many other horror films followed over the years, the religion is mocked in the kindest of ways.

As an ode to previous works involving children, a child is massacred and more than one baby is sacrificed in the name of Mater Lachrymarum so be forewarned if this is a dealbreaker for some.

Who doesn’t enjoy a coven of witches flocking down on Rome screeching at passerby folks and wreaking havoc on the sacred city now overcrowded with demons?

For the bloodthirsty types who crave a healthy dose of bloodletting Mother of Tears lets the floodgates spill wide open. One poor woman is speared through her private area and upwards while another’s mouth and face are expanded until they pop. Several eyes are violently gouged.

You get the idea.

Recommended is to watch Suspiria and Inferno first for chronological ease but this is not a must and a stand-alone viewing will do just fine.

Nothing can match the sheer madness and visual mastery of 1977’s Suspiria and Mother of Tears is the weakest of the three films but this is not a gripe merely a comparison. They work well together and the final confrontation involving Sarah and Mater Lachrymarum’s fight over a red tunic is the highlight.

The dark texture of the filming mixed with glowing lights and red colors are easily noticeable. This aligns nicely with religious or occult characters like a monsignor, cardinal, and various witches.

The film, though American-made, feels Italian and is quite authentic. Further, it naturally sits well with films of Argento’s heyday, the 1970s, and 1980s. Most if not all actors appear to be Italian or European adding flavor and culture to the experience.

If one has traveled to Rome, many exterior shots of the ancient city appear adding to the enjoyment. Sarah ravages the streets and scurries through the vast train station in one powerful sequence. Since trains are the main mode of transportation in Italy viewers can transport themselves back to a previous trip.

To know Dario Argento is to love him. Mother of Tears (2007) may not measure up to his very best works but it is an entertaining and enthralling visit to the macabre world.

It may or may not win over new fans but it will satisfy existing fans of the director.



Director Lamberto Bava

Starring Bernice Stegers

Scott’s Review #1,165

Reviewed July 26, 2021

Grade: A-

With a pedigree for horror, director Lamberto Bava has a lot to live up to. He is the son of Mario Bava deemed the “Master of Italian Horror” for creepies like Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963) and worked alongside Dario Argento, another famous Italian horror director.

Lamberto certainly learned his craft exceptionally well and he created a terrific and gruesome horror film called Macabre (1980) which certainly lives up to its name.

I won’t spoil the fun by revealing too much but the experience of watching his film will stay with the audience long after it ends.

Nightmares anyone?

Let’s just say that one won’t look at one’s libido and the human head in the same way ever again.

Sadly, Bava wouldn’t remain very long in the feature film industry. After assisting Argento with his films throughout the 1980s Bava would move to the television industry. But what a lasting impression he makes with Macabre.

The horrific tale mixes murder, madness, and perverse (or perverted) passion. A lonely New Orleans wife and mother, Jane Baker, played by Bernice Stegers, carries on a torrid affair without her family’s knowledge.

After sneaking around and causing her daughter Lucy’s (Veronica Zinny) suspicions to be aroused, a violent accident leaves her lover, Fred, dead.

Devastated, Jane does a stint in a mental institution. Supposedly cured, she leaves determined to pursue her forbidden desires and ends up moving in with her dead lover’s blind brother, Robert (Stanko Molnar).

But what secret or ghastly desires does she hold dear to her heart and what oddity resides in her refrigerator?

You’re probably wondering why a director with Italian roots as strong as Bava’s would choose the cajun and gumbo-infused city of New Orleans- I was too.

Why not choose a more gothic locale like Rome? The setting is even more jarring given the British and Italian actors cast in the film.

Rumor has it the events in the film happened in New Orleans but I’m not sure I buy that.

Be that as it may, something is unsettling about this weird setting. But somehow it works as measured against the bizarre nature of the story. It’s so out there that for some reason it affects.

The running time is just right at one hour and thirty minutes and with such a low budget any longer might have felt distracting or made the pace too much.

Stegers is fabulous in the central role. She is controlled yet neurotic, madly in love with her beau on the brink of instability. She is also a strong, feminist woman as she brazenly carries on with her affair unconcerned of the consequences though death isn’t exactly what she expects.

Regardless, Stegers does a fine job and carries the action throughout the duration.

It’s tough to measure at the time whether Bava is going for mid-level camp or complete over-the-top bizarro. He knows the tricks of the trade and avoids the popular slasher effects like gore and blood. This is to his credit.

Instead, he floods Macabre with juicy atmospheric elements and a perfect mood. This mood gets creepier as the plot develops reaching a crescendo at the conclusion when Richard, Lucy, Jane, and even the deceased Fred adjourn for a savory dinner where the events will never be seen coming.

Macabre (1980) is a forgotten masterpiece that I highly recommend for any fan of Italian-style horror and those desiring a ghoulish and titillating journey into the macabre.

How appropriate.

Eyes Without a Face-1960

Eyes Without a Face-1960

Director Georges Franju

Starring Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli

Scott’s Review #922

Reviewed July 23, 2019

Grade: A

Eyes Without a Face (1960) is a macabre and twisted French-Italian horror film co-written and directed by Georges Franju based on a novel of the same name by Jean Redon.

The film cover art (see above) is flawless and terrifying, inducing the creeps by only giving it a glimpse causing the recipient curiosity, attempting to analyze what the meaning behind it could be.

The film is nestled into a short one-hour and thirty-minute package but that is more than enough time to scare the audience to death with many fantastic and gruesome elements, severely limiting the gore, which only adds to the horrific nature.

The film was highly controversial when released in 1960 because of the subject matter at hand and was subsequently either loved or reviled among its audiences.

What makes Eyes Without a Face, so riveting is the empathy for the characters and the measures gone to right wrongs, despite the main character being undeniably crazy.

The complex emotions of guilt and obsession are commonalities making it a layered and complex horror film appearing on many Top Ten genre lists.

The film is not for the faint of heart.

Doctor Genessier (Pierre Brassier) is a brilliant and successful physician who specializes in plastic surgery. After a vicious car accident that he is to blame for, he attempts to repair the ruined face of his daughter, Christiane (Edith Scob), a victim of the wreck.

But his plan to give his daughter her looks back involves kidnapping young girls and removing their faces. He is aided in his machinations by his assistant, Louise (Alida Valli), who kidnaps the young woman and helps him in the laboratory acting as a surrogate mother to Christiane.

Louise aids GĂ©nessier partly because of his help in restoring her damaged face in events that happened before the film begins.

Scob is the stand-out character, containing an innocent and quietly melancholy existence as she is the clear victim of the story. Her defeated posture while resiliently hopeful and demure is complex for an actress to carry and she defines grace and poise.

Brasseur and Valli, the villains of the film, each deliver the goods in different ways. Valli, haunting in her best horror effort, Suspiria (1977), is mesmerized by her doctor and savior so that the relationship is almost cult-like. Brasseur, while devious, is strangely heroic too, as he steals lives to save other lives, so his character is extraordinarily complex.

The surgery scenes are chilling featuring white, starchy uniforms worn by a doctor, assistant, and victim. The scenes could almost be mechanical tutorials offered to first-rate medical students with scholarly intentions if this were not a horror film, the look is so documentary style.

Genessier calmly cuts an entire circular length of his victim as a hint of blood slowly oozes down the sides of her face in an almost tender fashion.

The film is not the 1980s slasher film image that encompasses non-horror film-goers’ preconceptions and, made in 1960, contains a somber yet gorgeous texture.

The best scene occurs when one of Genessier’s victims, lying on a gurney, comes to and gazes at a figure leaning close to her. The camera turns to the figure revealing a blurry but recognizable image of Christiane, sans the face-like mask she usually wears throughout the film.

As the victim shrieks in horror, Christiane slowly backs away from her amid a sunken feeling of pain and heartbreak, remembering how much of a freak she must appear to others. The scene is sad and grotesque at the same time.

Horror films often get bad raps, but poetic and stylized horror films are a diamond in the rough.

Eyes Without a Face (1960) achieves its place in the cinematic archives with brilliant black and white cinematography entrenched in a Gothic, chilling story with characters whose motivations can be dissected and studied long after the film ends.

This is a type of film that keeps the viewer thinking and deserves repeated viewings to fully capture all the plentiful gems that it offers.

Five Dolls For An August Moon-1970

Five Dolls For An August Moon-1970

Director Mario Bava

Starring William Berger, Howard Ross

Scott’s Review #393


Reviewed April 9, 2016

Grade: B-

Five Dolls For An August Moon is a 1970 Italian horror film by horror maestro Mario Bava, a well-regarded director of the genre.

Being relatively a novice to his films, but knowing his name, I expected a bit more from the film than I was treated to.

From a critic’s consensus, Five Dolls For An August Moon is not considered to be one of his better films- not even close. I found some positive elements to the film, but ultimately it did not come together concisely or compellingly.

The dubbing from Italian to the English language is poor and I would have preferred more authenticity to watch in the native Italian language.

Containing a fascinating and mysterious premise, a group of gorgeous people gathers on a sunny, remote desert island- somewhere off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Owned by wealthy industrialist George Stark, the weekend is intended to be one of socializing, fun, and relaxation.

It appears to be summer(hence the title) and the vacationers exude sexuality and a sense of good style. The beach house is lavish and sophisticated and it is suggested that all are brilliant, or at least, riding on the coattails of those who are.

One of the guests is famed chemist, Professor Gerry Farrell, who has recently created a revolutionary formula, and it is quickly revealed that all of the guests are industrialists with plans to buy the formula from him at any price.

Incensed, Farrell refuses to budge and, suddenly, one by one, the guests are killed off in typical gruesome horror fashion.

I am a sucker for a good whodunit, and Five Dolls For An August Moon appears to be in Agatha Christie’s- And Then There Were None style of intrigue, but this aspect of the film proves to be the most trivial and uninteresting as the plot moves along.

The character’s motives were unclear (yes, I get they all wanted the secret formula), but the real necessity of having it besides, presumably money, which they all appeared to already have plenty of, was dull.

The ending of the film and the “big reveal”, while clever, was also overly complicated for this type of film.

The film was for its time (1970), very provocative in look and style, and that impresses. Featuring a groovy, psychedelic soundtrack, bright, trendy clothing, and a sunset, the film challenges the tried and true horror elements, especially foreign horror (darkness, rain, fog, gloom) and this makes the film work from a cinematic perspective.

One cannot help but watch this film and think of director Russ Myer as a heavy influence. The casting of good-looking Italian actors, both male and female- the females busty and gorgeous- the men stylish and cool, reminiscent of Myer male actors, is noteworthy.

Interestingly, another glaring example of how other countries’ progressive sexual viewpoints contrast with the more conservative United States is that many of the couples on the island are involved sexually with other people on the island, including a lesbian romance, highly unusual to show in 1970.

These shenanigans give Five Dolls For An August Moon a more creative, suave, and sexual intrigue.

A highly effective, and creepy, aspect of the film is the keeping of the corpses in a freezer with plastic bags over the victim’s heads- meat locker style. Eyes bulging, with the clear bags giving a ghastly view, I immediately thought of the still-to-come masterpiece, Black Christmas, and how this film might have been influenced by a similar scene of a victim wrapped in plastic with a gruesome facial expression.

This is good horror stuff.

Five Dolls For An August Moon (1970) is not a great film, but it does have some edgy elements, a cool look, and thanks to great direction from Mario Bava, does some influencing films to come.

A decent horror flick and a worthwhile investment for fans of Italian horror- Bava is a heavy hitter and, next to Dario Argento, is the master in Italian horror films.



Director Dario Argento

Starring Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson

Scott’s Review #104


Reviewed July 11, 2014

Grade: B+

Opera is a 1987 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento.

The story revolves around a theatrical production of Verdi’s “Macbeth” as the understudy takes on the lead role of Lady Macbeth after the star is hit by a car, and strange and horrific events begin to occur.

The film contains traditional Argento elements- stylistic, extreme close-ups, and weird camera angles.

Members of the cast are systematically murdered as the killer forces the film’s heroine to watch- aided by a device which, if she blinks, sharp nails will go through her eyes.

The ending is killer- no pun intended. I love surprise endings in horror films and this one was dynamite.

My main criticism of the film is the horrendous dubbing, which distracted me a great deal. It has a muffled, hard-to-hear quality to it and no subtitles.

I’d rather it have been available in Italian with English subtitles. The film needs to be upgraded to Blu-ray ASAP.

Another odd aspect of the film is the mixture of operatic music with heavy metal music with each kill. It did not seem to fit the film at all.

Not Argento’s best- Suspiria (1977) and Deep Red (1975) have that honor, but a very good, enjoyable cinematic horror film.