Giallo & A Review System

I have a post/essay that I’ve been sitting on for a long time about a better review system. I always think I’ll post it, but I don’t, and I’m not posting it now either. That system is called the “Sphere Review System”. I do have a new system, explained below, that draws on some of the ideas from the “Sphere Review System”, particularly with regards to the reviewer’s own bias/tastes.

To keep this short, and get to the giallo part of this post, in the review system I am using here, there are 4 categories that a film is graded in, each category is worth one point. The film either gets the point in a given category or it does not, with the highest possible score being a 4 and the lowest possible score being a 0. In other words, this scale has 5 possible grades.

When I used the system in reviewing the films I have below, I did find it couldn’t account for everything. However, hopefully the brief comments I wrote after the films offer clarity. For its yet to be solved shortcomings, I do feel the system is straight forward and simple.

Categories are as follows:

  • 0/1 Point – Stylistics (S) – Does the film do something stylistically well. Style includes elements of cinematography, mise-en-scène (lighting, performance, set design, costume, makeup, etc.), editing, and sound. A film may do one or more of these well, but it can also simultaneously do one of these poorly and still get a point. And rarely, if ever, will a film do all perfectly. For example, a film may have great shots, but bad acting, or vice-versa. The review itself will try to account for such variances.
  • 0/1 Point – Structure or Narrative (Str/Nar) – A film may either have a good story if it is narrative, or have an interesting structure if narrative is not at the forefront or a concern. For example, Die Hard has a good story and plot, while Suspiria, where narrative is less of a concern, has an organic escalation of events that support its tone. Some works may have no plot so to speak, such as Bruce Conner’s A Movie, but have a clear structure which governs the way in which images in the film proceed. When a film gets a point in this category, “Nar” will be used for those films where story and plot is more central, and “Str” will be used for those films that are ordered according to different criteria.
  • 0/1 Point – Vision (V) – Is the film unique, original, and/or were the filmmakers daring, innovative, or creative in some way.
  • 0/1 Point – Did Mike Like It (M) This is the bias category of the reviewer. This final category draws heavily from some of the ideas presented in the “Sphere Review System”. As the adage goes, there is no accounting for taste.

When a film is scored, the parenthesis and abbreviation(s) beside the score indicate the categories the film received points in. Films do not receive a point for doing things serviceably, but only get points if they step beyond the serviceable realm and into the notable. On the same token, a point does not denote perfection, as nothing can truly be perfect.

Some Gialli I watched Summer ’22

  • The Pyjama Girl Case (1978) – 2 (S, M) – The 1st two acts are good, but they drop Ray Milland’s character in the 3rd act, which is a shame. The end is particularly dumb. Someone is hit by a bus and there may be a shot of a shoe flying through the air. The film was based on a real case that happened in Australia in the ‘30s. This does help to account for the bizarro cadaver-on-display-at-uni sequence. Most importantly, the film introduced me to Amanda Lear, who I will forever after adore. The soundtrack is “A” plus, plus.

  • The Possessed (1965) – 3 (S, Str, V) – An arguable early giallo, which has some exquisite shots; ultimately, the film is more of a mystery than giallo though.

  • Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975) – 2 (S, M) – Tonally this is all over the place, at turns really twisted and grim and then a buddy comedy. It ends on a real downer. The score is fun, and there are some cool shots.

  • What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1973) – 1 (S) – Not a sequel, but the follow-up to What Have They Done to Solange? (1972) 3 (S, V, M), both films directed by Massimo Dallamano. Of the two films, Solange is superior and has far more relevance in the post-Roe world, but Daughters has a truly awesome score, which was apparently recycled from another film. Daughters merges the poliziotteschi genre with giallo, and because of this, is not unlike Suspicious Death of a Minor. The motorcycle knife welding maniac in this one has zero characterization and is particularly laughable. Fans of Solange will get something out of the film.

  • Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) – 3 (S, Nar, V) – A lot of people consider this film to be a peak giallo as well as Fulci’s greatest work (Fulci does too). It is extremely grim and unlike a lot of gialli has a plot (if plot is your thing) that holds together. Personally, I just don’t care for Fulci’s penchant for extreme gore, which too often feels out of place within the film itself. The end shot in this one has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen, and I am confident that I was not meant to belly laugh for three minutes straight.

  • Torso (1973) – 1 (V) – The film offers a clear link to the American slasher film; it also arguably features the quintessential knife-wielding-motorcycle-maniac. Alas, the film borders on forgettable.

  • Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975) – 0 (no points) – This one has a title, but that’s about it. There is a motorcycle maniac, but the film mostly trades on soft-core porn and shock value with scenes of genital mutilation. This film is also irksome, because in the first half of the film someone seems to care about lighting and shots, but then they give up in the second half and everything looks like garbage.

The Argento I Watched Summer of ’22:

With the exception of Opera, I’d previously watched the other Argento films multiple times. For anyone interested in this post broadly, I would also mention that I feel Argento’s works are vastly superior to any of the films I’ve reviewed above.

  • Tenebrae (1982) – 4 (S, Str, V, M) – This just got a new 4k transfer, it is glorious.

  • Deep Red (1975) – 3 (S, Str, V) – Also got a new 4k transfer, which is very good. Overall, solid.

  • The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) – 3 (S, Str, V) – Solid as well; the murder scene is still a mic drop.

  • Opera (1987) – 3 (S, V, M) – This was the one Argento I had never seen, and I’m so sad I only just watched it. It is bananas, laugh out loud undistilled stoopid, and utterly delirious. To quote Rotten Roland from Galaxy High School, “I love it, I love it!”

The most notable slasher I watched Summer of ’22:

Girls Nite Out (1982) – 1 (M) – Below is an abbreviated review I wrote for this film and posted on a Discord server I am on.

Blood Rage came up on this server at one point, and for those who similarly like ’em so-bad-there-are-other-reasons-for-watching, they might check out Girls Nite Out. This is a slasher, and where it becomes a slasher, it’s really facile, sexist, and dumb (albeit the concept of the killer wearing the school mascot suit replete with krueger claws is sort of dippy-fun), but i do genuinely like other aspects of this film, such as the cast, its rambunctiousness, and its general lack of self-knowledge about just what type of film it should be. at turns it’s a comedy, ala animal house and other films that would have been popular at the time, a slasher – and it definitely qualifies as a slasher, drawing from giallo, and silly voices being spoken over phones – and then at the end, it becomes a weirdo police procedural. it also features what i’m guessing is every hit single by the lovin’ spoonful and finally hal holbrook – mr. mark twain tonight “himself” – which the credits never let you forget. i’m posting this over in saturday-nite-trash just so ppl know what they are getting into in that event they decide to give it a go