Saturday, 10 May 2008

LA CASA DALLE FINESTRE CHE RIDONO/The House with Laughing Windows (1976)

This is a strange one. I came across on a website devoted to Italian movies. I was intrigued that the reviewer seemed to be reviewing it as an "art" movie rather than a lesser known "giallo". This does not mean that I don't believe that an Italian horror film could aspire to be art, far from it. But one rarely sees them reviewed as such. My second surprise was that although the film was made in 1976 I had never heard of it before. It turns out to be a very strange film. A picture restorer travels to a remote island off the coast of Italy to examine, restore and, perhaps, move a fresco depiting the martyrdom of St.Sebastian from a church. The painting is the work of a mad artist who was believed to have painted scenes of death and torture from life. Soon after he arrives a friend dies a violent death, his lover - the local teacher - suddenly disappears and he is warned by a mysterious phone call to leave the picture alone. He begins to investigate the life of the artist and slowly begins to uncover a story stranger and more terrible than imagined. The film opens with a bloody ritual murder taking place behind the credits which makes one expect that what will follow will be strong stuff indeed. But as the film opens it seemingly forgets totally that it is a giallo and proceeds to build its mood of place and mounting dread very convincingly. Director Pupi Avati refuses to be rushed into delivering a horror film ala Bava or Argento. In some ways it resembles a Bava film but perhaps one directed by Anonioni or Rossellini - although in terms of achievement I wouldn't want to compare Pupi with those masters. The main body of the film is a slowly unravelling mystery, sinister but nothing as shocking as the disturbing scenes behind the opening credits. It is only as the film reaches its climax that Pupi allows the violence to break out again. His restraint certainly pays off, making THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS a memorable film. I liked it very much and I look forward to tracking down some of his other films such as BLOOD RELATIONS (70), REVENGE OF THE DEAD (83) and ARCANE SORCERER although they seem to have been only a small part of his total output. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Wow, I've never heard of that movie before either. But it certainly sounds well worth seeking out. I've probably made the point in my blog over and over again that I find blood and gore effects for their own sake extremely BORING; but when they have a reason to be in the movie I'm fine with it. It sounds to me like this film manages to do so with quite a lot of style and mood as well. And yet another film to add to my must-see list.