By 1985, giallo-mania was basically over in Italy. Filmmakers had seemingly given up on black-gloved killers in favor of gorier offerings involving zombies, cannibals and supernatural elements. Apparently, no one bothered to share this news with Camillo Teti -- because he chose that year to release his sleazy (on paper anyway) and incredibly boring giallo, The Murderer Is Still with Us. Giallo fans have talked about the film for years, citing it alongside Giallo in Venice and Fulci's New York Ripper as the grimiest films the subgenre has to offer. Teti's film does certainly have a few disturbing moments, but none of them -- nor a character who looks like a life-sized troll doll -- are enough to save this title from a one way trip to dullsville.

Murderer takes its influence from a real-life killer. Florence, Italy was the site of 16 murders that took place between 1968 and 1985. The killer -- known by the moniker of The Monster of Florence aka Il Mostro -- was discovered to be not one, but three men: Pietro Pacciani, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti. Pacciani was later cleared of all charges, but when Murderer was released the case was still unsolved, which is probably the most tasteless aspect of the film. That is, unless you're more offended by sitting through eighty-three minutes of banal dialogue, big hair and bad characters.

Christina Marelli is the film's doe-eyed yet blank protagonist who wants to write her criminology thesis about a mysterious killer terrorizing young couples who escape to the woods for the usual shenanigans. She becomes immersed in the investigation when she uncovers a group of voyeurs who are secretly recording the lovers' antics. As the bodies start to pile up, Christina's pool of potential suspects grows -- she even looks at her own (jerky) boyfriend with a questioning eye. As the film comes to a close, the audience is treated to a surprise ending, which should have felt unique to the subgenre but instead feels annoying and preachy. That coupled with a misogynistic undertone was enough to make me want to pull my hair out.

Gialli were often known for focusing on stylistic flourishes -- at the expense of other areas -- yet Murderer even stumbles in this area. There are a few highlights, however. During the opening scene, the black-gloved killer's shadow plays nicely across a women's naked corpse before he violates her with a tree branch. Christina's apartment is the setting for another more common visual effect -- dramatic, expressionistic lighting and quick cutaways between our damsel in distress and the killer are a definite pick me up after the lull that precedes it. Oh and there's this whole nipple slicing and bushwhacking scene which is pretty gross and great. The fact that the killer uses a gun was another interesting wrinkle rarely seen in the Italian thrillers -- although he still gets down to business with his trusty blade once he has shot his victims. On the other hand, the film has an odd tone to it -- as though it's never really sure what it wants to be. This is particularly true near the climax where an impromptu séance breaks out for no apparent reason. Trying to figure out why some of these things are happening is pointless. I doubt even Teti really knows, so why worry about it?

For me, the most exciting yet odd thing about Murderer was the score. Detto Mariano's electronic soundscape mimics something closer to Kraftwerk than giallo cinema. Admittedly, my experience with the subgenre's later efforts is minimal at best (part of my motivation to seek out Murderer), so it was a truly strange experience to contrast Mariano's early 80's style against the iconic sounds of classic gialli films.

Murderer should have been a success, but it falls short in nearly every way imaginable. The fact that it features a script from master gialli screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi and special effects courtesy of Roberto Pace (Zombie), should have guaranteed a decent film. On top of that, it has all the common giallo elements: a murderer killing people at lover's lane, mystery, an investigation and sex. How the heck do you screw that up? Watch and find out, but bring caffeine. Clearly, the movie's title and film's ending suggest that things are still unresolved, but I'm resolved 100% that this is not a giallo I will be revisiting again.
categories Features, Reviews, Horror