Going by the title alone, The Bloodstained Lawn offers up wild imaginings of all things gory and tasty on the violence front- massacre proportions in fact, to stain a whole lawn, if it was a reasonable size would take quite a few bodies. However in true giallo tradition this entry proves you cannot go by title alone when speculating over content. In fact, I would go one further, and argue could this film be considered a giallo at all? If you take the general tropes of a giallo, an unseen killer, black gloves, sexy ladies murdered in brutal ways, none can be found here. On the most basic level, yes this film is a pulp thriller, with a bit of a detective mystery at the centre of things, and, therefore, it is understandable that it makes it onto many giallo lists. However, for those expecting more conventional fare, The Bloodstained Lawn does not even offer up the most basic of tropes. This said that does not mean the film is a complete waste of time, it is original at least, and it deals out some fairly entertaining scenes of free loving hippiedom that would be shameful to pass on. If you like your horror with a wacky, psychedelic flavour, then maybe this title is for you.
All the fun revolves around a group of middle-class people who live in a luxury pad out in the middle of nowhere. To pass the time, and for other reasons alluding to profit, science, and some sort of Bathory experiment, the group lure unsuspecting ‘losers’ to their abode, indulge them in free booze, spy on them getting frisky, and then, well these new guests disappear. So far so good, the only problem with this is, for the bulk of the one hour, twenty minute running time, you don’t get to see where these people are disappearing to. In fact, most of the action occurs in the showdown, meaning this is a film that requires a certain amount of patience to get to the punchline. Never fear, there are plenty of things to keep the audience amused during the waiting period- which include, naked hippy dancing, drug taking, a naked woman trusted up like a hog roast, a wiley old tramp who bears a striking resemblance to Paul Naschy – ‘Hobo’ edition, and a mad scientist who possesses the world’s most ridiculous bow-tie. Somewhere within all this, there is a lone hero investigating matters, and a doorway to a weird orgy room that resembles a large bald vagina.
On team Evil are scientist Dr. Antonio Genovese ( Enzo Tarascio), his wife Nina, (played by giallo regular Marina Malfatti), and brother Alfiero ( Claudio Biava). All are generally unlikeable, Malfatti pulls out her best resting bitch face to portray something of a fairly vain and utterly contemptible lady of the manor . Scientist Dr. Antonio is completely nuts- and Tarascio is extremely adept at conveying this. Claudio Biava is Nina’s brother Alfiero who makes for a capable henchman type, and appears to have a very close relationship with his sister, further adding to the weirdness on offer. Writer/director Riccardo Ghione gives the impression he is having a stab at the affluent classes in his weird and meandering narrative, and there is an angle of black comedy that accompanies the bizarre plotline. There are also references to creating a ‘pure race’ from loony scientist Dr. Antonio, with wife Nina sharing his skewed views. Along with this the Doc in his spare time likes to listen to Wagner- make of this what you will. The victims are treated as uneducated fodder whose only purpose in existing is to be farmed like animals. While the rich home owners appear to have more money than sense and have lost all sense of reality living out their decadent lifestyles. The guests cover a gambit of generally useless people- a couple of free lovin’ hippy hitchhikers- Max (George Willing), and his girlfriend (credited as Max’s companion) played by Daniela Caroli, are the main focus of the show and do a reasonably decent job of fulfilling the criteria of the aforementioned. Caroli is not afraid to flash some flesh, while Willing as beardy weirdy boyfriend Max demonstrates a large penchant for dope, joss sticks and playing the guitar. Lucio Dalla is a rough Paul Naschy type tramp, who enjoys the free hospitality, and copious amounts of wine on offer, and also appears to be the only person to have one iota of sense about him. Dominque Boschero is a lusty prostitute- another cast member with little inhibition in getting her clothes off, and one whose character apparently loves her job (even taking the time to read up on porn mags in her downtime, presumably to pick up new tips to pass on to her clients). The most inexplicable aspect when it comes to the victims, no one appears to question anything (apart from the tramp), and when weird things happen- like finding a human skull in an outdoor oven- it takes a while before any sense of alarm sets in. Nino Castelnuovo as the UNESCO agent is grossly underused, and only pops up from time to time, to perhaps inject a sense of urgency into the plot, however so sparse are these moments, this angle sadly flops.
There is a lot of titillation to be had in The Bloodstained Lawn, but sadly not much in the way of gratuitous sex and violence, so if you are looking for something with a bit more meat on its bones, there is the possibility that this may disappoint. What the film does have in its favour is a script that is so bonkers and irrelevant that it is easy to get wrapped up in the madness. The detective angle lets things down as it is sloppy in its approach, apparently just slotted in to tie things together. When you consider some of the inventiveness apparent in Ghione ‘s script, and considering the underlying story arch, it is quite disappointing Ghione opted to resort to a slap dash and hasty approach to ending his story. There are some interesting aspects to the story, especially the ones relating to social classes and eugenics, but these are not nearly explored as much as they could be. Adding to this, the fact there can be little sympathy elicited for most of the victims- being in their own ways as self-indulgent as the aggressors- sadly, takes away any resonant messages Ghione may have hoped to contain in this film. The underlying concepts are watered down by the ample scenes of nonsensical behaviour- like our hippy lovebirds showering in wine, and skipping hand in hand to some groovy hipster music playing in the background. All this aside, The Bloodstained Lawn is a decent romp, far more interesting than it really deserves to be, and well worth checking out if you like your Euro-thriller/horrors with a curious edge.