Review by Marek Zacharkiw.
During a psychoanalytic session, a psychologist suggests her patient to go into a specialized clinic, but her suggestion unleashes the mysterious fellow’s latent madness. Abandon is the key factor to understanding his delirium, which will drive him to take up killing once more. So, after getting rid of psychologist’s body, he decides to carry on the “therapy” by himself, with the help of a small camera, recording his feelings in a crazy crescendo.
“Chrysalis” is the metaphor the hero uses to describe his own transformation, the last metamorphosis in his life, which will change him into a ruthless and sadistic serial killer.
Giallo, Slasher, Italian Horror
A new breed of Italian violence…
Violence was once described as an Italian art, but over the last few decades their scene has been in a steady decline, however one of the styles that Italian cinema has become synonymous with to horror and thriller fans is that of the giallo, appears to be staging a (muted) come back over the past few years as fans have seen giallo -influenced art-house films (Amer, The Strange Colour of Your Bodies Tears), -based films (Berberian Sound Studio) as well as homage’s (Yellow and Masks) with the Italians only major entry Tulpa (2012) being arguably the weakest of the lot.
Arguably for the last strong Italian or related entry (with decent distribution) we have to go all the way back to 2004 (Eyes of Crystal) and 2001 (Sleepless) but I am pleased to announce that all that has changed now with Luigi Pastore’s debut film ‘Symphony in Blood Red’.
Winner of four awards at the Italian Tenebria Film Festival, including for best director and best screenplay, the film benefits from the input of multiple genre legends such as Antonio Tentori (A Cat in the Brain, Dracula 3-D) who helped co-write the screenplay with Pastore as well as starring in the film, meanwhile the special effects were completed by Sergio Stivaletti (The Church, The Wax Mask, The Card Player, Mother of Tears) and a portion of the soundtrack by former Goblin member Claudio Simonetti (Deep Red, Tenebrae, Sleepless amongst others) and his metal/rock band Daemonia, which for the metal fans around also features Titta Tani (ex-Necrophagia) with their input really helping to elevate the impact of the scenes.
But before we get to the film, we must discuss the art work and packaging, an area often lacking in most released films nowadays (Arrow Video always being an exception in the UK), and a special mention has to go to 8Films for this release for both the standard version and, especially, the collector’s edition look fantastic with a glorious eye-catching cover where every element from the colour scheme to the font and to the actual imagery works. The collector’s edition also comes with a bonus OST disc and a booklet filled with photographs of the film and interview comments although all are written in German, due to the releases origin. Even so, if you get the opportunity to purchase the collector’s edition you should. That recommendation should imply enough regarding my thoughts on the film.
Symphony in Blood Red is a bleak, pessimistic take on the horror-thriller genre, if you are looking for a traditional giallo circa 1971 (amateur detective or police procedural) then you are out of luck, for while deeply influenced by that era Pastore has played with the conventions and introduced an innovative take on the genre, something Argento tried to do but backed out of, with the character of Alfredo Grossi (played by Thomas Kretschmann) in The Stendhal Syndrome.
Opening with a straight up homage and quote from the immediate beginning of Argento’s Tenebrae, a director who Pastore openly states as a major influence, we see a blood-stained woman stumbling away from the camera before being introduced properly into the film with first a POV shot of a (presumed) girlfriend stating she is leaving our lead character for another man, and then in the next scene his psychiatrist seemingly abandons him by stating she recommends he should go into a clinic. These personal rejections appear too much to handle and provide the catalyst for an ill mind to snap, or rather develop into that of a revengeful killer.
Within under eight minutes we know the killer has committed two murders, one in front of us, but there is a sadness too behind his actions, which is beautifully conveyed, in part due to the camera shadowing the killer throughout the film as opposed to a traditional protagonist (such as an amateur detective) and so as a viewer we are not only made to feel complicit in the murders, as voyeurs as we watch, but also we gain an insight into his loneliness, as we begin to feel sympathy and pity for both his life and actions while flashback scenes further enforce these feelings through the depiction of his cruel childhood.
Initially the murderer killed for revenge but soon cannot control the change in his mental state, as he becomes an indiscriminate monster against his will with the true tragedy being his realisation nearer the end as he spots a final chance at redemption with the beautiful Lisa, someone who at last may give the killer some hope and reason in life.
The murders in this film are a thing of beauty, as overseen by Stivaletti including one memorable scene involving the murder of a priest (a traditional giallo priest it must be said, if you have read Koven’s book; ‘La dolce morte: Vernacular cinema and the Italian giallo film) and this murder really symbolises the start of the killers transformation from avenger to monster, although it is a later killing that steals the show displaying the juxtaposition of torture set to happy, childlike carnival music.
Furthermore it has to be said that the music and audio in general in this film is fantastic, and a testament to ArtVision that they are of the quality of Daemonia, and as previously mentioned, the sound helps heighten the emotional impact of the films.
Symphony in Blood Red is quite a serious film, in the sense that it never plays for (ironic) laughs or absurdity as some horrors are prone to mistakenly do and as a result it is able to not only maintain but also build on the gloomy almost nihilistic feel without diffusion or breaking the illusion of the bitter world created by Pastore and Tentori.
One must also praise the characterisation of the killer, who sometimes come across as ridiculous in this genre, but the scriptwriting is of a high standard with subtle scenes leading the viewer to build a full picture of the desolate and empty life of the killer.
Featuring brutal violence, beautiful women and a pessimistic outlook make this a similar yet different Italian horror film, letting the killer be the story-teller as opposed to simply the odd scene from his point of view, Pastore’s knowledge and love of the genre and film in general shines through but equally does his creativity and personality.
Clocking in a tight 74-minutes (it says approx. 80 but I don’t really count credits), this film does not overstay its welcome and due to the relatively short duration it needs to be focussed and thankfully the makers have achieved that without sacrificing brutality or emotion.
Finally I must mention again the soundtrack, it truly is superb, from the gentle emotional impact of the scenes emphasising loneliness and past to the driving metal/rock in the more action orientated scenes, the audio not only fits but also enhances the visual aspect dragging the viewer into the world and boosting engagement.
There is so much to recommend about this film which belies its lower budget and limited distribution. You can purchase the film from Lu Pa films at http://www.lupafilm.com/dvd.html