Directors: Francesco Campanini, Francesco Barilli
Writers: Luca Magri, Chiara Agostini
Stars: Luca Magri, Francesco Barilli, Marco Iannitello
There’s more than a hint of Pupi Avati about La casa nel vento dei morti, the 2012 release directed by Francesco Campanini. It’s not just the title, with it’s deliberate echoes of La casa dalle finestre che ridono (The House of the Laughing Windows), it’s also the rural setting, the deliberate build up, the overwhelming sense of fatality about the narrative and a certain sepia aspect to the cinematography (the narrative also has several connections to La casa dalle finestre che ridono). It makes for a refreshing change, as there’s too far much sub-Argento, sub-Hostel type nonsense out there; and although it’s not an entirely successful film it’s certainly an effective slow-burner which deserves credit on several counts.
Set in the post-war period, Attilio (Luca Magri) is a washed up movie star whose career has stalled because of his involvement in pro-fascist films earlier in the decade. Without money or prospects, he carries out a daring post-office raid with three associates: a young Sicilian emigre (Marco Iannitello), an elderly ex-con (Francesco Barilli) and a former stuntman worked with him in happier times (Adriano Guareschi). Needless to say it all goes wrong and, although they manage to escape, there is a shootout in which one of them is wounded and an innocent man is killed. Wanted for murder, they decide to flee across the Apennines mountains and cross the border to safety. But it’s a hard journey and when they come across an isolated farmhouse owned by an eccentric family of women, they decide to pay in exchange for shelter. This turns out not to be a very good idea.
Although the limited budget is painfully apparent in places, La casa nel vento dei morti benefits greatly from its intriguing set up. Attilio makes for a more complex protagonist than usual, not a particularly good man but certainly not deserving of the misfortune than has befallen him; and the historical set up gives it all a cine-literate aspect that raises it above, what it at heart, yet another story in which a group of city slickers are systematically murdered by a group of weird rural folks. There are intercuts featuring fake extracts from Attilio’s films (which are authentically wooden) as well as a running joke in which he is repeatedly recognized by former fans despite his best attempts to keep his identity secret. The locations are well used, serving to give it a visually attractive element even when not much is actually happening, which in fact is for much of the running time; in fact the major problem it has is a certain lack of consistency about the pacing, the build takes up so much of the running time from the point that they characters reach the farmhouse everything rushes along so quickly that you hardly notice it happening.
Campanini previously directed an interesting thriller called Il solitario, which has inevitably never made it to the English speaking world, and his work here is of a sufficient quality to leave one hoping that he has the chance to make more films in the future. Barilli, who is better known for his excellent 70s horror film The Perfume of the Lady in Black, has a co-director credit, and this certainly shares some of the look and feel of his earlier work.