The golden age of Italian horror was in the 70's but directors like Dario Argento (Giallo), Lamberto Bava (Demons), Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man) and Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust) carry on the tradition of this ever-shifting genre today. Its influence can be felt in many American slasher films of the 80's--a time when giallo had a renaissance. John Carpenter has often cited Argento's early work as an influence on Halloween. This influence can also be felt by many contemporary Asian horror directors like Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

The roots of Italian horror go back to 1929 when the Mondadori publishing house introduced a series of books in yellow covers. These novels were created to promote detective stories that were influenced by British and American mystery fiction. The paperbacks were synonymous with their distinctive color and became known as giallo novels--giallo meaning 'yellow' in Italian.

From the 1940's to the early 1950's, Italian cinema was deeply rooted in a neorealist style, reflecting life post-World War II. At the dawn of giallo cinema in the 1960's, the fantastical elements associated with American film were foreign to Italian audiences. But soon the giallo genre developed a distinct Italian style like its literary counterpart. The films were associated with intense color, fashionable style and theatrical visual elements. Italian cinema became more experimental in the 60's leading into the 70's. Though the mystery component was maintained, eventually giallo focused more on Gothic horror and psychological thrills, steeped in healthy doses of eroticism and graphic violence. Themes like exoticism, alienation and identity emerged and became the earmark of the genre, made famous by favorites like Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava.
categories Reviews, Horror