Mellow Giallo: Has the horror genre lost its ability to shock? | Movies

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giallo started out as the trashiest of genres. Derived from Italian pulp novels (with yellow cover, hence its name), it was distinguished, among other things, by serial killers, appalling violence and abundant female nudity. Half a century later, however, the giallo has pretty much become a respectable cinema. Great art, even.

You can follow this journey in the new and daring British horror film Censor, directed by Prano Bailey-Bond. The story takes place in the early 1980s, at the height of the “wicked video” panic, when horror films were banned from the coffers by conservative politicians in order to preserve the delicate moral fiber of the nation. Along with cannibalistic films and Nazi exploitation films on the list of banned films were gialli such as Tenebrae by Dario Argento and A Bay of Blood by Mario Bava. Censor himself, in which film censorship is sucked into the horror film industry it fights against, borrows heavily from the giallo playbook. Argento fans will be delighted with the delusional surreal climax of the film – the vivid color palette, stylized lighting and synth score.

Giallo in general, and Argento in particular, has been plundered by many subsequent filmmakers (looking at you, Brian De Palma), and in recent years the tributes have multiplied. There was Peter Strickland’s formidable Berberian Sound Studio, set in the Italian horror world of the 1970s, as well as the overt homages of Belgian duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani (Amer, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears). Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon borrowed from Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and Argento’s 1977 classic Suspiria, while Luca Guadagnino took it one step further, following up Call Me By Your Name with a wholesale remake of Suspiria. , although his version lacked the lyrical excess of the original.

The revival of giallo continues at a steady pace, increasingly in the mainstream. The Palme d’Or de Cannes this year, Titane by Julie Ducournau, has been described as “neo-giallo” by some critics. And Edgar Wright’s highly anticipated horror Last Night in Soho, starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie, is shaping up to be yet another hallucinogenic homage to the genre.

Giallo had his “bad” side. Usually performed by men, it often reveled in female objectification and violence against women, although the best of the genre has looked at issues of male weakness, often putting female characters front and center. . Recent neo-gialli such as Censor reject what is dated to the genre and keep what is great, not only the heightened aesthetic, but also the emphasis on trauma, perception and gender – this time through a feminine gaze.

Fortunately, Censor also retains the plump, meaty character of a true giallo, rather than seeking to elevate it to the level of art. This is perhaps what makes giallo so durable: it is neither pure waste nor great art; it’s both.

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