In the Market isn’t by any means a great film – heck, it’s not even a good film – but it does have one thing in it’s favour: unlike most Italian films, it was shot and acted in Italian. As a result the performances have a fluidity which is almost totally absent in the majority of Italian genre productions which, for some bizarre reason, persist in using English language, despite the obvious lack of rhythm and naturalness that this causes. Although there are no familiar names in the cast here, they all appear to be comfortable in their roles – well, apart from when they’re being strapped to a table and protractedly tortured, that is.
The plot takes its cues from Hostel (even namedropping Eli Roth to make the connection clear). A trio of attractive teens are on holiday, driving across the mountains to see an exclusive gig on the other side of the country. On the way they’re held up at gunpoint and forced to hand over all their cash. With no money for hotel rooms or food, they came up with the brainwave of hiding in the loos and then spending the night in a roadside supermarket. Unfortunately, the supermarket they choose is the domain of a psychotic butcher (Ottaviano Blitch) with a taste for human flesh, who serves up the remains of his victims which he doesn’t eat to his presumably unaware customers.
Although Dario Argento is name-dropped in some of the publicity, the key influence here are the torture porn films that were popular in America when this was made. The narrative is a fairly simple two act structure: the characters are set up in the first part and cut up in the second. As such it’s simplistic and lacking originality, with too much focus on ‘authentic’ banter about popular culture (in a Tarantino style). But the characters are relatively well constructed – despite the often ridiculous things they do – and surprisingly sympathetic. The direction is dull but at least it doesn’t try too hard or become gimmicky and there’s a horrible soundtrack full of bad pop music.
Where the film really comes alive, though, is with the appearance of Blitch. With a constant range of ticks and twitches playing across his tombstone face, he steals the show and is marvelously entertaining. A psycho with a philosophical bent, he’s up there with Wolf Creek‘s John Jarratt when it comes to crackpot killers. A musician and DJ, Blitch also appeared in the not entirely dissimilar but slightly superior Shadow at around the same time.