by Astrid Mc Clymont
The films of Argento are commonplace in the annals of the cult horror kingdom due to their gore-splattered violence and B-movie charm. Here is a compilation of the top ten most shocking and entertaining. For those that know Argento’s films this should be a pleasant trip down memory lane. For those that don’t – hopefully it will give you some new material for your Netflix queue.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
1970 B-movie classic, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, depicts the tale of an American writer in Rome who lives with his model girlfriend and suffers from severe writer’s block. He plans on returning to the US until he witnesses the brutal attack of a woman by a black gloved, raincoat wearing assailant. For some reason the police take his passport as he bears witness to the supposed serial killer that’s been terrifying the capital. American Dalmas starts to receive bizarre phone calls with the glitchy noise of a bird that is confirmed to be the rare Southern Caucasus i.e. the bird with the crystal plumage. Reported to only be held captive in Rome’s zoo he soon discovers the killer’s predictable residency.
Music teacher Marcus Daly witnesses the gruesome murder of psychic medium Helga Ullman – cue his investigation into finding the killer that leads to the introduction of various colorful characters, such as Ullman’s associate Dr Giordani and reporter Gianna Brezzi with whom Daly embarks on a passionate affair. During Daly’s investigation he misses a vital clue (amongst many). A painting that hung in Ullman’s apartment at the time of her murder has vanished by the time the police arrive. Daly’s negligence leads to one murder after another. During the initial killing, a bizarre, childish rhyme plays out signaling the killer’s calling card. After hearing it in his own apartment he plays it to a psychiatrist who concludes that the song must play an integral part in the psyche of the killer, maybe signifying a traumatic event in their childhood. Being right, this leads to Daly’s eventual capture of the killer.
Inspired by the horror novels of Peter Neal, newsreader Berti goes on a lustful killing spree of beautiful women in Rome. Cue the convoluted story line of Peter Neal’s immediate and coincidental arrival in Rome with his agent and smitten assistant while being incidentally followed by his loathsome ex-wife. Berti is memorably hacked to death by an unknown assailant, however the murders continue. The murderer isn’t revealed until Neal’s ex-wife Jane is sitting in the kitchen when an axe-wielding madman crashes through the window chopping her arm off before hacking her body down into a mince induced death. Neal himself, upon learning of Berti, was jolted into recalling his repressed memory of being sexually humiliated by a girl in his youth which led to him brutally killing her; thus awakening his repressed blood lust which renders him insane which leads him to fake his own death. Eventually, his assistant kills him by accidentally impaling him with a large metal sculpture.
Suzy, an American ballet student arrives in Germany to enroll at a prestigious dance academy. On her first day she makes arrangements to move in with a fellow student off-campus but a peculiar fainting spell sees her being placed in a dormitory against her will. She is told she must be medicated daily with wine. Shortly after, a freak accident occurs where millions of maggots rain from overhead. The terrified students are told it is because of rotten food in the attic. Because of the peculiar happenings the girls are housed in a makeshift dormitory where Suzy hears the distinctive sound of the school’s director even though they’re supposed to be off-campus for several weeks. Perplexed by the strange goings-on, Suzy approaches a psychologist, Dr Mandel who explains that the academy was founded by a Greek immigrant witch. Upon returning to the academy Suzy discovers all the students are at the theater. She is summoned down a secret passage by footsteps where she discovers the old coven is still at large, performing a sacred ritual of utmost deviancy.
A book called the Three Mothers is discovered by poet Rose Eliot. Depicting the tale of three women who rule the world through tears, sorrow and darkness, the book was written by architect Varelli who built houses for the three women in Rome, New York and Freiburg. Suspecting she lives in one the houses, Rose corresponds with her brother in Rome. Using clues in the book she stumbles upon a hole in her cellar and after digging deeper, she discovers a flooded ballroom where a corpse floats to the surface. Two shadowed figures attempt to break into Rose’s apartment but ambush her as she tries to escape, brutally murdering her. Learning his sister is missing, Mark arrives in New York with Countess Elise. Discovering peculiar stains in her apartment he’s overcome and faints. A black robed figure attempts to drag Mark’s body away but notices Elise and stabs her to death. Using clues left by Rose, Mark eventually discovers the secret chamber under the cellar where he is confronted with Varelli and his maniacal nurse. Through a series of bizarre incidents, Varelli and his nurse are killed leaving Mark to escape.
Asia Argento plays detective Anna Manni who is in pursuit of a serial killer in Florence. The Stendhal Syndrome is a condition in which people are bizarrely overcome by great works of art, rendering them in a state of delusion. The serial killer uses the syndrome to distract and confuse Manni in order to kidnap and rape her. She manages to escape, though severely traumatized, and she is led into having an epiphany moment giving her a more optimistic outlook on life.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Rock drummer Roberto Tobias is being stalked by an unknown assailant. Deciding to discover his identity, he pursues him only to be led to an abandoned theater. Confronting his stalker, a struggle breaks out and a switchblade is thrust at Tobias. A fight breaks out leading to the unknown stalker being stabbed to death in the orchestra pit. Meanwhile in the upper wings of the theater, a man is hiding out in a puppet mask, keeping watch on the fisticuffs that has broken out. The next day Tobias receives the murdered man’s ID in the post. Realizing the unknown witness has no intention of alerting the police the only reasonable explanation is that he’s trying to drive Tobias mad with fear and paranoia, but why?
Anorexic Aura (Asia Argento) escapes from a psychiatric hospital, then meets David who kindly lets her live with him in order not to return to the hospital. Sadly, their union doesn’t last and Aura is taken back. Shortly after, bizarre murders of the hospital staff start taking place on rainy afternoons. The killer beheading the victims with a homemade garrote. When the murdered bodies of Aura’s parents are discovered David and Aura team up to discover the identity of the killer.
In 1983 Detective Moretti is investigating a series of killings in Turin known as the Dwarf Murders. The main suspect, a novelist Vincenzo de Fabritiis dies and the case is considered closed. That is until 17 years later when an identical string of murders start to take place and Moretti is drawn back in. Moretti teams up with Giacomo whose mother was murdered in the original killings. The murders continue, bringing the duo to the tragic realization that the killer is summoning their own death.
Young, naïve opera singer Betty suddenly finds herself in the lead role of Verdi’s Macbeth after the previous singer was in a car accident. During her first performance a murder takes place and soon after everyone connected to Betty meets an unfortunate demise. At the same time Betty acquires a stalker as many more bizarre murders occur. Meanwhile the young singer starts to have terrifying dreams in which her mother is confronted by a masked assailant. During her final performance the killer is revealed in a stunning and grotesque climax.