Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fulci Lives!

I'm not a total devotee to Lucio Fulci, nor am I one of the many Fulci apologists. Still, I offer my apologies... Even his lesser films are watchable for all the wrong reasons, which is its own kind of compliment. As we all know, watchable shitty is a lot different than typical shitty-- you know, the kind you're likely to see take box office gold this summer. Fulci's responsible for some great/awful 80's horror meets Flashdance (Murder Rock), numerous little boys dubbed by middle-aged women (House by the Cemetery, The Sweet House of Horrors), death by snails, and the most menacing Top Gun poster ever (Aenigma)! Also the man did pull out all the stops on occasion and make genuine movie magic. His giallo films are my preference, but even his flicks like The Beyond, as much as they thrive on splatter and shlock, can invoke nightmarish atmosphere that is truly on par with the greats of Italian horror.

My personal favorite of his tacky and extensive oeuvre is Lizard in a Woman's Skin. Carol, a seemingly repressed high society type, begins to have dreams about seducing, then stabbing, her free-spirited hippy neighbor. Dreams that (gasp) come true! Everyone fantasizes about having a sexy neighbor make love to us on a red velvet bed with a wind machine, right? Not only does Lizard sleaze things up with its psychosexual lesbian murder, it takes a pretty cool spin on the often formulaic Italian murder mystery. The film becomes like a warped dream, using works of art and shock imagery to invoke the possible madness within its protagonist... before the last 10 minutes of course, when it ties everything up in a confusing, talky and bland bow.

What's remarkable though, given the questionable and sometimes inept work in Fulci's later films, is his mastery of space and locations and their relevance to the mental state of Carol. The winding staircases, bats in the belfry, and locales both ornate and confining, all seem to hint at this woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In all of its lesbian hysteria, arthouse horror and psychedelic dread, it's one of the seminal gialli of its era.

No comments: