Director: Gabriele Albanesi
Writer: Gabriele Albanesi
Stars: Giuseppe Soleri, Paolo Sassanelli, Laura Gigante
Another in the line of generally disappointing recent Italian horror films, Ubaldo Terzani Horror Show does at least have some lineage behind it, featuring special effects by Sergio Stivaletti. In some ways, though, this only serves to highlight the gulf between contemporary genre cinema and that produced during its Italian heyday (or even the early eighties, when it was already sliding on a scale in terms of quality). The failings are familiar: being overly referential to the cinema of the past; low production values; a script that fizzles out and goes nowhere; variable acting. It’s certainly not the worst film of it’s type and it’s of some interest to completists, but it’s still unlikely to be of much interest to the casual viewer.
Alessio, a young and apparently talented film director, is ordered by his producer to join forces with a writer called Ubaldo Terzani if he is to get the green light for his debut movie. At first disappointed by the arrangement, he perks up a bit when he discovers that Terzani is in fact the author of several genuinely creepy and violent horror novels. So he agrees to go and spend several weeks in Turin, where he will stay at the Villa or his new writing partner and they will bash out a working script.
When he arrives, Terzani (Paolo Sassanelli) tends to be a rather peculiar chap. Undoubtedly charming, he also has a way of needling, of deliberately making his guest feel uncomfortable, a ploy which reaches its apex when he takes him to an arty party and gets him roaring drunk. Plagued by increasingly morbid nightmares, Alessio begins to suspect that his host might have some dark secrets, a feeling not eased by the discovery of some rather disconcerting photographs and being taken on a tour of the many local murder locations. Could it be that Terzani gets inspiration for his work from somewhere other than his imagination? Could he in fact be a killer?
Not exactly a giallo, because you’re never in any doubt as to what’s going on, director Gabriele Albanesi makes his debt to Dario Argento and Mario Bava clear, both in terms of the set decoration – which prominently features posters for the lies of Strip Nude for Your Killer – and the style, which borrows the back-lit look from films like Suspiria and Inferno. It also shares that peculiarly Italian taste for houses (or households) with dark secrets, a key theme present from the gothic horror of the sixties, through the sex comedies of the seventies and even to acclaimed present day films such as The Consequences of Love.
Unfortunately, though, it can’t overcome its limitations. At times the lack of budget is tangible, leading to an ugly, course look (ironical, considering how even the cheapest Italian productions used to at least look fantastic). The story at least tries to be something different to the usual torture porn nonsense, but it lacks conviction and is rather predictable, running out of steam in the last twenty minutes or so and throwing in buckets of blood and gore as a recompense. Finally, as with books about authors, films about directors just aren’t very interesting (I’d even include La dolce vita and 81/2 in that, although many wouldn’t). It’s curious to contrast this with Christopher Roth, a rather more stately Italian film about a horror writer who becomes involved in real life murder: this is rawer, more grungy and just as silly. At least it can be said that acting is acceptable, and it is brave enough to be shot in Italian.