Tulpa – Perdizioni mortali

Directed by Federico Zampaglione
Story by Federico Zampaglione, Dardano Sacchetti, Giacomo Gensini
Cast: Claudia Gerini, Michela Cescon, Ivan Franek, Nuot Arquint

Over the past few years there has been the occasional attempt to revive the giallo, with titles like Ubaldo Terzani Horror Show and Symphony in Blood Red (2010) recycling stylistic tricks and techniques that became familiar back when the genre and the Italian film industry in general were both in a much healthier condition. Although interesting, none of these efforts have actually been all that effective, and even Dario Argento’s more recent films (Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005), Giallo (2009)) have fallen short. In fact, the last half-decent giallo was probably Eros Puglielli’s Eyes of Crystal (2004), which is a shame, especially as so many Scandinavian, Spanish and American films are re-working similar ideas at the moment.

Tulpa – Perdizioni mortali is another in the series of ‘yeah, it’s OK but…’ releases of this type. The plot is frankly a bit odd: high powered businesswoman Lisa Boeri (Claudia Gerini) has a secret life, frequenting a seedy sex club called Tulpa which caters for the jaded rich. Tulpa is suffering something of a membership crisis, namely that someone or other is bumping them all off, and most particularly those ones who have at any point had sex with Lisa. But who could be responsible? Kiran (Nuot Arquint), the weird, gobbledygook spouting owner of the club? Or maybe Stefan (Ivan Franek), another attendee who Lisa has become close to? Or maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with any of them and it’s all down to one of her work colleagues?

Tulpa - Perdizioni mortali
Tulpa – Perdizioni mortali

There’s quite a lot to like about Tulpa. It has a strange, distinctive atmosphere, not a million miles away from the films of Domiziano Cristofaro (see The Museum of Wonders, The House of the Flesh Mannequins). It’s well shot and professionally put together by Francesco Zampaglione, who previously directed the superior Shadow, a rather different but equally vicious proposition. And the basic plot is intriguing enough, even if it doesn’t make a great deal of sense. But… it has one major flaw, and that’s that it never at any point rings true.

Let me elaborate. The old school thrillers as made by Argento, Bava, Fulci et al were never realistic, not by any stretch of the imagination, but they succeeded in creating their own internal world: most of their protagonists had jobs that allowed them to exist outside of society, so no time at all was given to showing them having ‘normal’ lives that the audience could relate to. Which was very sensible, because most of the people making them were filmmakers, writers, musicians and actors; people who don’t have a great deal of experience at doing a day job. Where Tulpa – Perdizioni mortali really falls down is in trying to portray Lisa as a high powered executive, something that the writers really have no understanding of. You can imagine Zampaglione and his co-writers (including genre veteran Dardano Sacchetti) sitting round and saying: “Ok, we want a top businesswoman, but what does a top businesswoman actually do?”, “I know! Phone calls to Germany!”, “What about board meetings, they must do that…”, “And how about, I don’t know… another phone call to Germany!” The results are ludicrous, and undermine any other attempts to make Lisa at all believable (not that much effort is expended on this).

Then again, the script as a whole displays a very cavalier attitude to logic, with the characters acting in entirely irrational ways and the certain plot developments coming completely out of leftfield. It also suffers from the same somewhat cheesy fascination with ‘extreme culture’ that afflicts much contemporary Italian genre product, almost as though the makers have determined their target audience is limited to people whose idea of a good night is sitting in a dark nightclub discussing whether Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails made a more significant contribution to the cultural wealth of the planet.

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