Classic Horror Story, A


Marinara Classico

Main Cast: Matilda Lutz, Francesco Russo

Directors: Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli

My plans for a new tour of the modern musical classic, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, are proceeding apace.  I’m going to completely re-conceive it, strip it down to it’s bare essentials, so to speak, and come up with a revelatory new production which will be sure to garner headlines and accolades, not to mention a plum role for me using all of my many musical talents. 

To helm this project, I need to find just the right director.  My first call was, of course, to Lars von Trier but he’s apparently busy with something in Europe and Ivo van Hove would not return my calls, not even when I arranged for the delivery of a lovely gift basket of calf’s foot jelly.  It needs to be someone modern and willing to stretch the envelope just a little bit. 

The rest of the artistic team is falling into place with Mr. Sebastian coming in to do all new musical arrangements – the originals are all just so country and I want something more classical and dignified.  I’m thinking almost Mozartian.  And then Mr. Carl is on board for the choreography with an emphasis on tap and ballet.

A plate full of purity

Of course, we are going to have to change the title to something a bit more wholesome and family friendly.  The show takes place at a rural establishment known as the Chicken Ranch so I’m thinking that’s where we should start. Maybe something like Chicken Strips and Ranch Dressing might give us just enough innuendo without drawing the ire of our increasingly puritanical society. 

I want the parents of America to be able to bring their precious offspring to see a fabulous star live and on stage without being in the least bit embarrassed by the title on the marquee.  I’m having Joseph, my manager, reach out to the Southern Baptist Convention to see about doing a tour through the Southern States in some of their larger sanctuaries, perhaps replacing the Praise Band at a service or two in each town.  I don’t think it’s been tried before but I think it could be highly successful.

All of this thinking and planning and asking what if was making me highly agitated so I felt a need to relax with a film.  I retired to the home theater and put on the Netflix and punched a few random buttons.  The film that popped on was an Italian horror film entitled A Classic Horror Story which came out last year. 

Italy has produced some good horror in the past, especially from the giallo masters such as Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento.  It seemed like a harmless way to spend an hour and a half, so I mixed up some Glenfiddich and Drambuie, pulled up an ottoman for my tired feet, slipped off my pumps and fishnets and settled in, prepared to be entertained.  The film that unfolded was, at first, rather lackluster and disappointing but some significant meta twisting in the third act eventually made the whole thing worthwhile.

A Classic Horror Story involves a group of disparate strangers who use a ride sharing app in order to travel through Southern Italy in what I suppose is an Italian version of a Winnebago, but which appears to be a shipping container on wheels last decorated circa 1974.  Our heroine is Elisa (Matilda Lutz).  She is pregnant and not sure she wants to be and is headed home to southern Calabria to her mother and a possible abortion. 

The tin can on wheels is driven by Fabrizio (Francesco Russo) who appears to have escaped from his mother’s basement long enough to make the trip.  He fancies himself a travel vlogger and is pointing a camera in everyone’s face and making bad jokes. 

The other passengers are Riccardo (Peppino Mazzotta), a doctor with secrets and a guilty conscience and the young couple Mark (William Merrick) and Sofia (Yulia Sobol).  These five drive through the picturesque countryside as the sun sets.  After dark, when the corpse of a goat suddenly blocks the road, the RV swerves, they crash, and one is seriously injured.  Getting out to look for help, they find they are in a clearing, the road can’t be found, and there’s a creepy old cabin and three scarecrows with pig heads. 

Soon it’s clear that they’re in the grips of the locals who may or may not be worshiping the legendary founders of the Cosa Nostra, the 16th century brothers Osso, Mastrosso, and Carcagnosso.  Murder and mayhem abound with various characters being tortured, the discovery of previous victims, and then there’s a huge twist that turns everything back on itself, one that I did not see coming (although it’s set up throughout the film if you look for it) and which elevates A Classic Horror Story above the usual humdrum slasher/torture porn flick.  I will not spoil it here.

There are elements of all sorts of other modern horror films here, including Hostel, Midsommar, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The creators obviously have a fondness for the genre and have a good time inserting various allusions and homages as things unfold.  A Classic Horror Story is directed by Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli who also wrote the screenplay along with a bunch of other credited writers (never a great sign) and that may explain why there are several abrupt switches of tone throughout the proceedings and some of the clunkiness of the dialogue. 

The characters, even though few in number, are not thought out with much depth so when bad things happen, we don’t really care a whole lot.  Emanuele Pasquet, the cinematographer, does a good job with the mainly nighttime setting of the film while still letting us see just enough of some of the more grisly proceedings to get the frissons a good horror film should produce.

The performances are serviceable, if not exciting.  Ms. Lutz gives us basic damsel in distress.  Most of the supporting cast are competent but aren’t given enough character to play.  The only one who truly makes an impression is Francesco Russo’s socially inept vlogger who walks the fine line between annoying and endearing.  He was the only one I could remember the next day.  At least none of them are the vapid beach bunnies with no acting talent other than chiseled abs who tend to populate low end American horror.  They all come across as real people.

If you enjoy the horror genre, you could do a lot worse than this one.  It’s imperfect, but interesting enough to hold your attention and some of the big twists at the end will keep you thinking and wanting to talk about it to someone else the next day.

Ugly carpeting. Ominous sunset. Wattle and daub cages. Gratuitous mallet to malleolus. Creepy feast. Props department. Fence of real chain link. Secret siblings.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction.

Photo by Farhad Ibrahimzade on Unsplash

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