Italian horror cinema has never shied away from gory violence and sexual imagery-often depicting the genre's female leads in an arguably misogynistic fashion. Even though the Italian thrillers showed a considerable amount of naked female flesh on screen, the women of gialli played a pivotal role in making the subgenre a vital part of Italy's cinescape for several decades.
Dario Argento's Tenebre, itself a fine example of the form, has a line where one female character ironically condemns giallo's ladies as "victims, ciphers," before becoming a victim herself. They're much more though--not merely fetishistic objects to be slaughtered by iconic black-gloved killers, but also heroines, murderers and yes, sometimes victims and ciphers too. Lucio Fulci's Seven Notes in Black poetically demonstrates how these women could be everything. The eerie chime of Virginia's wristwatch echoing behind the wall that holds her prisoner signals to the audience that even though she's doomed, she will still be heard. Virginia spends the majority of the film being victimized, but she's also proactive in trying to save herself and unravel the mystery that surrounds her. Even though she's not entirely successful, she refuses to just fade away.
For the next several days, I'll be highlighting the careers of gialli's finest leading ladies, in celebration of February being Women in Horror Month. Read more about the woman credited as Argento's muse, Daria Nicolodi, after the jump.