Tuesday, 19 June 2018
Build My Giallos High
Directed by Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy
Shout Factory Blu Ray Zone A
Warning: Slight spoilers in this one
regarding a certain comedy moment.
Blimey. I think it would be true to say that The Editor is not the film I was expecting it to be.
True enough it’s an homage, mostly, to the popular Italian gialli of the mid/late 1960s to early 1980s but it also throws nods to other genres and styles into the mix too, such as both Italian and Canadian horror films but, mostly, this is not what took me by surprise. What surprised me was the fact that the film very quickly, after a strong opening sequence reminiscent of giallo cinema, turned out to be a comedy. And I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about that.
Asides from the giallo spin, my other main reason for ordering a US Blu Ray of this thing was that it features Paz De La Huerta in its cast, who I loved in the movies Nurse (aka Nurse 3D, reviewed here) and Enter The Void (reviewed here). However, it has to be said that although she’s technically a main character, playing the wife of the editor in the title, she actually doesn’t have many scenes in this movie. Which is a pity but, there you go.
Now, as I said, the film starts off quite strongly and it features a beautiful sideways tracking shot, along the top of a row of drink bottles, of a girl in a strip bar dancing while lit by some sultry red and white lighting. We then cut to her walking home in streets lit yelllow, red and green and she is almost molested before she returns to her red and blue apartment. As you can tell from this description, the wonderfully lurid, saturated colours of the Mario Bava/Dario Argento school of ‘psychedelia noir’ is already in place, right from the outset and the film also has a few nice shot compositions too... but I would say that most of those compositions are not as rigidly creative as the ones seen in many gialli over the years, to be fair.
Once the girl emerges, naked, from her shower, she is attacked by a typically clad ‘giallo killer’ and injected with a fluid which leaves her paralysed on her bed as the killer puts a venomous spider on her spectacular nudity. However, before the arachnid can do its work, the killer bashes her head in with an ostentatious swash of blood. And then we cut as the audience is let in on the secret that this is all just a movie within a movie that the titular character is editing for his boss, a once great giallo director. And then, for me, the film somewhat descends into the kind of over the top, tongue in cheek, campy comedy which makes films like Anna Biller’s Viva (reviewed here) and The Love Witch (reviewed here) so great but with perhaps not quite her sly acknowledgement of the ridiculousness of the source material. That being said, the many comedy moments in the film can be quite amusing in some places although, in many of those cases, I would have said that a good knowledge of giallo cinema would be essential to ‘getting the joke’.
There are two main characters in the movie. There’s the The Editor, Rey Ciso... played with a kind of strange, deadpan but wholly appropriate detachment by Adam Brooks. He is one of those troubled souls who can’t be one hundred percent certain that he’s not actually doing the killings himself. The background of the character is that he was once a great up and coming editor who had a nervous breakdown after being driven mad by the pressures of his attempt to edit 'the world’s longest movie' (I’m not making this up). Then, he accidentally cut off the fingers of one of his hands in the film splicer and now has to wear a kind of wooden gloved prosthetic on that hand.
The other character is the police detective Inspector Peter Porfiry, played by Matthew Kennedy. He at first suspects that Ciso is the man behind the murders but, by the end of the film, they become allies to hunt down the truth of the situation. Both, of course, are heavily ‘giallo’d up’ and are sporting full-on Maurizio Merli style, 1970s moustaches.
There are jokes aplenty in the movie such as the typical giallo priest figure who is consulted by the detective. Also, a nice moment where a character drops something while talking to the detective and, when he gets in his car, Porfiry finds it is a straight razor and returns it, placing it in the owners black gloved hand. A nice shout out to those seventies giallo killers. There’s also another wonderful moment when one of the characters in this film within a film, shot by the director of a fictional classic giallo called “The Cat With The Velvet Blade”, crashes an exercise montage sequence which looks (and sounds) like something out of Lucio Fulci’s Murder Rock. He accuses one of the girls of being a mystery killer, wearing a mask... such as you might see at the end of a Scooby Doo cartoon. However, when he tugs at her visage it becomes fairly evident she isn’t wearing a mask as her face comes off in his hands and her eyeballs in the red, gorey mess of the inside of her face roll around as she screams. No harm done, though, as the detective just pats the face back into place and then, after a quick cut, the girl is back to normal. It’s a moment which takes you by surprise in a film which has a few similar tricks up its sleeves. There’s even a comical sex scene where the detective makes love to his blind girlfriend and then... um... blindfolds her. Yeah, okay.
Like a typical 1970s Italian exploitation picture, the acting is quite bad through the majority of the film and, of course, that’s quite deliberate and adds to the feel. This is further enhanced by a musical accompaniment comprising of quite a few composers, as it happens, one of them being Claudio Simonetti who, of course, is exactly the kind of person you want scoring a movie like this.There are also many great homages to various genre movies throughout the course of the film which crop up and take you by surprise.
For example, the actual killing of the actress played by the girl within a film at the start of the movie has her fingers cut off (a killer trademark in this) and left dead and bloodily hanging in a shot deliberately reminiscent of the first murder sequence in Dario Argento’s horror movie Suspiria. Every now and again, too, the directors will drop in an homage to my favourite Sergio Martino giallo The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (reviewed by me here). Even the music in these sequences, which mirror the strong, non-consensual sex fantasies of giallo queen Edwige Fenech in that movie, are scored with a parody of Nora Orlandi’s famous score (later re-used by Tarantino in Kill Bill Volume 2).
More nods include: A parody of the killer standing behind another character who we don’t know is behind him until he bends down, which is from Dario Argento’s masterful giallo Tenebrae (reviewed here) and which was later ‘stolen’ by Brian De Palma for Raising Cain. Talking of De Palma, there are, in fact, a couple of split screen sequences used towards the end of the movie which parody that director’s cinema to a degree too. And talking of Argento, a book that the wonderful Paz De La Huerta is reading has the title, Three Mothers... echoing Argento’s trilogy partially based on a page from the follow up essay of Thomas DeQuincey’s Confessions Of An English Opium Eater (available in a very reasonably priced Wordsworth Edition here)... Suspiria, Inferno and The Third Mother (aka Mother Of Tears). The film even has a nice appearance or two by much loved genre actor Udo Kier, who of course had a small role in both the first and third parts of that trilogy. Not to mention a moment representing Canada by parodying David Cronenberg’s body-horror classic Videodrome.
On top of this, there’s a whole slew of Lucio Fulci moments in The Editor, including: The girlfriend of the detective who discovers the first murder and is rendered completely blind in an instant because of the horror of what she saw. Her eyes go completely white and she looks very much like Catriona MacColl in Fulci’s The Beyond (reviewed here). That being said, some of the long shots of her face don’t match when they cut back to close up but I’m honestly not sure if that was a mistake or some kind of deliberate nod to the same kind of errors happening in those movies. Similarly parodying The Beyond, a load of spiders emerge from the walls of a library to attack the detective when he is doing some research. So, yeah... some nice references here.
At the end of the day, I wasn’t too sure about this movie after about ten minutes in from the start but, as the genre jokes got more sillier and over the top, coming thick and fast, I had to admit I more than cracked a smile or two and so I would surely recommend this film to... at least one of my friends that I can think of. It slowly won me over and my initial disappointment changed to appreciation by the time it reached the end of its running time. Overall a nice little viewing experience with some truly silly sequences and some quite over the top, practical 'in camera' gore effects. However, I would also have to mention that, unless you are quite well versed enough in giallo and horror movies over the last 50 years (thankfully, I seem to be), you may find that a lot of the jokes in The Editor fall flat because you might not understand them. Other than that, though, you’ll be just fine.