|Index||10 reviews in total|
I'm guessing you've got like late-era Italian films to enjoy this, but
I liked this film a lot more than anyone that's reviewed this film
Why? For all the reasons listed as negatives elsewhere, that's why! Sure, the plot doesn't make much sense, and barely exists. Sure, there's bad eighties hair, bad eighties music, and bad eighties everything else, but come on, these are good points! I had a good laugh with this one. I loved the way the first guy they sent down the tomb had to crawl for ages to get to it, but by the time Donald Pleasance et al got down there, it was as easy as walking into your back garden! Brilliant.
It's suspenseful in places, with a good atmosphere and setting. I've been down to the catacombs in Rome and they really do warn you not to wander off. I thought that was because they were so large, but after watching this film, I guess it was to stop me falling foul of a demon.
Good stuff, if you know what to expect.
First of all I enjoyed Marcello Avallone's masterpiece "Maya" from 1989, because it was stylish,well-produced and gruesome."Specters" is his first acclaimed horror film. While a team of archaeologists lead by Donald Pleasence are digging through some ancient ruins the subway being built above causes some cave ins and new catacombs are found.This leads to the burial ground of a legendary demon who then rises to the occasion and starts dispatching his victims in gruesome ways."Specters" is obviously influenced by Lamberto Bava's "Demons".The plot is silly and offers many annoying sub-plots which lead absolutely nowhere.The photography is beautiful,but the action is slow and there is almost no gore.Only for Italian horror completists.A very generous 6 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS**There is a tendency for Italian horror films to draft in
American actors to broaden their international appeal. Easy examples being
John Saxon in Tenebrae and Rupert Everett in Dellamorte Dellamore.
(which should have been distributed in the UK as Spectres (lazy)) ropes in
veteran horror actor Donald Pleasance. It marks the second Italian film
I've seen in him, the first being the rather mediocre thriller Nothing
Underneath. Optimistically I reckoned that Specters would easily be the
better film and it is, just, although that isn't much of a
In an undisclosed Italian city a group of archaeologists led by a Prof. Lasky (Pleasance), are exploring a series of ancient catacombs beneath the remains of a Roman bath system. Their dig' is augmented by the local construction of a subway, the tremors from which cause a new series of chambers to be revealed. Unfortunately archaic writings in the first new chamber warn of an ancient evil that will be invoked. Of course, this being a horror film, the etchings are no idle threat
Most Italian horror (and perhaps horror films in general) emphasise style over content and Specters does not deviate from this tradition. Alas, the style aspect of the film is below par and fails to redeem it from its meagre content and any potential is lost. Part of the problem is that the film consists of too many inchoate strands, another that the killing scenes are mostly rushed and could have been easily improved (N.B. wind and fissures in the ground are not particularly scary).
Most horrors incorporating archaeology either involve Ancient Egypt or a long-buried UFO. The use of Ancient Rome (and paganism) in this film is refreshing and one of its initial strong points. The baths, catacombs, zoology department of a museum, and other locales are well realised and created with some attention to detail. A big problem however is that little is made in terms of dialogue, backstory etc. of the Roman angle. The bloody history and mythology of Ancient Rome should have been emphasised a lot more to add flavour and atmosphere to proceedings. Instead, we have banal one-liners, an annoying hero' figure, and not much explanation for anything. Even the monster' itself is given scant explanation or detail; nothing transpires about what it is or its motivations.
*spoilers to end*
Another gripe is the on screen realisation of the said monster'. (The title should be Specter or Spectre as there is only one of the blighters!). The film takes the classic method of slowly and tantalisingly revealing the creature scene by scene, i.e. firstly from the monsters line of sight, then a glimpse of its claws, then its eyes in the darkness, and so on. No complaints there. But at the finale, when it should be revealed in all its glory, it only gets a few seconds of screen time. In the dark. It leaves the viewer with no impression of what it looks like (unless you play around with the VCR controls). I suppose this approach hides any limitations in the SFX and make-up but it is a rum deal for a film that relies on its monster.
The ending itself is pitifully executed. It is rushed, involves no real confrontation with the beast and over in seconds. A character who could offer some explanation for the events makes an appearance only to be butchered instantly, whilst the main characters run around avoiding the scary cracks in the earth and the oh-so-frightening gusts of wind. The reasons why the beast haunted and abducted one specific character are also given no explanation either.
Now I shall mention some of the films good points (there are some thankfully) aside from the aforementioned Roman setting. The film briefly touches on the matter of whether history and artifacts should be the domain of private collectors or museums (or the dead!). The scene where Lasky shines his torch over a series of emotionless' Roman statues to finally reveal is impressive and invokes a sense of doom connected with a centuries dead civilisation. Finally, a character gets his head squelched against a wall (it was great!).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Whether evoked, or not evoked..evil will come."
During a routine archaeological study, a secret door is discovered leading to an undiscovered tomb. What lies within this tomb, a demon, if able to escape the tunnels, could threaten the lives of everyone above ground. It'll be up to Marcus(John Pepper), a member under renowned archaeologist Professor Lasky(Donald Pleasence)to seal the tunnels and stop this powerful demon who has designs on his temperamental actress girlfriend, Alice(Trine Michelsen).
That's the best I can do to provide a reasonable synopsis for such a difficult film. It seems director Marcello Avallone and his co-writer Andrea Purgatori were more interested in flashy visuals than creating a decent story which we can follow.I kind of reacted to Specters the same way as Soavi's The Church. I think Avallone wishes to depart from following a narrative structure, freely using the premise of an evil resurrected from it's place of entrapment, to unload bizarre sequences such as the importance of wind which disrupts the characters and often leads to the presence of the monster somewhere within the proximity of those destined to perish. I was disappointed in the lack of gore, because there seems to be opportunities to show gruesome violence. I will admit that I think it's got some incredible atmosphere, especially the tunnels which lead to the demon's tomb, and the Roman catacombs. I'm not sure why the film was called Specters, though. I guess it sounded cool and those Italians, God bless them, love a catchy title. There were, to me, striking uses of light(..the dark silhouette of characters from afar in tunnel entrances as light shines from behind them, the demon opening it's arms after rising from under earth with light grandly presenting it to us, barely visible but still ominous enough, the great scene where the demon's green eyes blanket Lansky, his face full of fear at what he has just encountered), and a nifty tourist trip through the Roman catacombs. Didn't care for the Marcus character or his girlfriend, Alice(..although, she's hot in a man's shirt)and too many scenes end abruptly just as they were on the verge of getting really good. I loved the first time Marcus follows the tunnel which eventually leads to the demon's tomb and that marvelous sequence where Lansky is engulfed in darkness, his flashlight pointing out statues in his dead employer's cavernous "tropy room". There's a scene very reminiscent of Nightmare on Elm Street where Alice is sleeping, with the demons hands exploding from the mattress, pulling her into it(..many will consider this an outrage, I imagine).
The main flaw, among many, that bothered me the most was the fact that Lasky informs Marcus to close the tunnels so that the demon can not escape, yet the beast attacks victims on the outside of the tomb. I think the feeble plot serves as an excuse for the demon to prey on those who were involved with it's discovery. Repercussions for those who are responsible for unearthing evil seems to be the point of emphasis, if there is one. The creature is flimsily established by the filmmakers with artifacts such as a dagger buried into a wall, pagan symbols, skeletal remains and a sarcophagus all tied to the demon terrorizing folks. The demon does rip the flesh of victims' faces and there's this neat jump scare involving a destroyed corpse. Enter with caution because Specters is not an easy nut to crack. Oh, and Donald Pleasence fans will probably find his character and performance rather disappointing. There were times when the poor guy just agreed to work in anything and Specters certainly doesn't display Pleasence at his best..he was sleepwalking all the way to the bank to pay his electric bill.
There is never any mention of a "specter" in this film. The creature we finally do see (other than Universal's Gill Man) is an ugly beast not unlike the She Creature. If it weren't for the ridiculous horror clichées, this film might have worked, as the set design is fascinating and some scenes are actually suspenseful, and the archaelogical dig is exciting. Unfortunately, a lot of it deals with stupid teenagers, gratuitous pop songs, sex, and topless scenes, and predictable junk make much of the film annoying. When wine bottles start spraying and catacombs are collapsing, it's interesting, but it has the cliché horror it's not really ending, no one survives by the main fornicating couple, and girls panicking from little mice. The blind man's beating heart getting ripped out is the ultimate in gratuity, since it lacks all the significance of Evan pulling out his own heart in Michele Soavi's _La Chiesa_. It could have been better than _Demoni_, but at least it's not worse, nor as disgusting.
Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Italian film industry was
putting out some great Horror films. From 'Black Sunday' to
'Phenomena,' the genre was on fire. This of course was also the case
here in the States. Unfortunately, Horror in Italy would suffer a
similar fate. Not only were so many being churned out, but the quality
started to take a dive. There are some like 'Ghosthouse' and 'Hell of
the Living Dead, that are cheesy fun. Then there are those like this
dud, which deserve to be forgotten.
Pros: Some of the actors do OK. Fantastic score. Great locations. Pretty good special effects. A few effective shocks. Pace finally picks up in the final act.
Cons: Lacking in plot. Makes very little sense. Underdeveloped characters. Some actors phone it in, even the great Donald Pleasance. First two thirds are very slow. Some of the dubbing is poor. Nothing you haven't seen before. Mostly forgettable.
Final thoughts: The trailer for this film actually makes it look interesting. Actually, 'Specters' has a lot of the right ingredients to make a fun Italian shocker. However, the outcome is a seriously flawed effort with little to offer. The fact that four writers worked on the script is rarely a good sign.
My rating: 1.5/5
I wonder if, back when he was wowing audiences with great performances in films such as Cul-de-sac and The Flesh and the Fiends, Donald Pleasance ever thought he'd be starring in dross like this? Anyway, I have to say that I wasn't surprised to find that Specters is basically the film I thought it would be; namely, a poor Demons-style trashy eighties horror flick with little in the way of redeeming features. The plot is just common horror fare and features a bunch of researchers digging into places they shouldn't be digging and revealing a load of ancient catacombs that warn of impending doom. Naturally, the evil is unleashed. At the very least from this, I was expecting some decent gore; but all we actually get is cheesy crap which is matched by the trashy atmosphere and typically cheesy eighties soundtrack. The plot is a complete mess and I found it very easy to get bored. Donald Pleasance was obviously bored too, and that's not surprising considering the talent of the people he's working with; naturally, Specters features some awesomely terrible acting. It all boils down to a typically pointless ending and overall, this is one of the few films that is bettered by the lamentable 'Demons 2'!
I saw this one back in the early 90's. I vaguely remember thinking it
wasn't very good. But since there was a time when I first saw Fulci's
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and just dismissed it as B-movie rubbish (Hey
now, don't give me that look -- what did I know back then?), I decided
to give the Italian SPECTERS another try. Turns out I was right the
first time: It's not very good.
Man, this movie had so much potential: Catacombs setting and ancient mythology about demonic mumbo-jumbo, some cool death scenes, Sergio Stivaletti doing the make-up and monster-FXs, Donald Pleasance, a sporadically present ominous drone-like soundtrack, obligatory sex-scene (boobies!) with the blond leading lady,... And the movie even has a cool title.
But it's a hot-damn friggin' total mess of a movie! Practically nothing makes the slightest bit of sense in this one. None of the cool ideas are properly worked out. People just shift from one location to another without explanation. Donald Pleasance had no business in this film, except for playing a tired, old professor mumbling about stuff that nobody's able to follow anyway. Even the frozen shock ending is totally torn from the loo (sorry, that's a Belgian expression in which "loo" is British English for "toilet").
I sighed immensely after this second viewing... This could have been great 80's horror stuff. Yet, it might still be considered a worthwhile one-time-only viewing. Mainly for the noteworthy elements I mentioned in my second paragraph. Plus there's a scene that resembles (ok, use the word rip-off if you desire so) another scene from ALIEN a lot (think: when Skerritt goes searching for the alien in the air-ducts, with someone watching his moves on a monitor). And Johnny Depp's death-scene in A NIGHTMARE ON ELMS STREET clearly served as a major influence (again: rip-off) for a similar (much briefer) scene in SPECTERS too.
SFXs maestro Sergio Stivaletti does manage to convince again, for the most part. The "head crushing"-scene was nice (though they cut away just a second too soon). There's a gooey corpse popping up at some point. The one death-scene that starts off in the wine-cellar was well crafted. And even his demonic creature at the end seemed nifty. Though that one was hard to tell, as we're merely offered a few glimpses on it.
So in a way, this is typical 80's Italian horror of the supernatural kind. But it's about three times more incoherent than what we're used to from these guys. Then again, if you've managed to sit through Fulci's lesser supernatural efforts (ex: MANHATTAN BABY), then you'll do just fine sitting through SPETTRI too.
Poor Donald Pleasence! He's been in a lot of really awful films, and this is one of the worst. He was known for putting in good performances even when handed a bad script, but in this disaster, he doesn't even try. In addition to the apathy of the cast, the scriptwriter obviously didn't care too much since this film makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. There are fissures bursting open at random, men running around in Creature from the Black Lagoon costumes, a gratuitous song, a mysterious dagger, lots of tunnels, but no logic.
Huh, what do you know ! They do make horror movies in Italy that not appeal to me, after all! Well, actually I already knew that. The Italians were the undeniable masters when it comes to horror, especially during the seventies and eighties, but obviously all films couldn't be winners. Just like "Manhattan Baby" and "Zeder", which more or less revolve on similar themes, "Specters" is an incredibly incoherent and painfully tedious film. The basic premise holds a lot of potential, for sure, but director Marcello Avallone as well as his three (!) fellow writers didn't manage to turn it into a compelling script. Several of the story lines are underdeveloped, the film wastes far too much time on irrelevant sub plots and insignificant supportive characters, the evil's true nature remains a mystery even after the film has finished, the lead roles aren't convincing and the production incomprehensibly doesn't take full usage of the marvelous filming locations and scenery! Here they are shooting a film in one of the most beautiful cities in the world underneath it as well as on the surface but all we get to see are pitiable images of some lame ruins. Donald Pleasance, who regularly appeared in Spaghetti horror productions (see also the much better films "Phantom of Death" and Dario Argento's "Phenomena") is clearly aware of the film's inferior quality and thus doesn't even bother to give away a half-decent performance. There's something evil lurking under the city of Rome The acclaimed archaeologist Prof. Lasky and his crew have been searching for a 19 centuries old tomb for many months, but now it seems that the nearby subway construction works have finally exposed the entry. The discovery might not be such a triumph after all, as the occupant of the sarcophagus a bizarre type of feline monster is awakened and promptly goes on a rampage. Well, at least I think it goes on a rampage, because that's the point where the "Specters" really stops making sense. Many sequences, like the "Nightmare on Elm Street" similar suck-into-the-bed death scene, are played like they are hallucinations whereas other ones, like the head crushing sequence, are reality? There clearly is some sort of (spiritual?) link between the monster and one of the archaeologist's girlfriend (played by the former Miss Denmark Trine Michelsen who recently passed away as a result of bone cancer) but that story aspect is never at one point clarified. You'll get used to that, though, as there are many more. What's the deal with the blind tour guide in the catacombs? What inflicted the veto between Prof. Lasky and the exaggeratedly gay-behaving elderly antique dealer? Why does literally everybody in this film insist on having extended conversations with themselves? Why aren't the school couple from the beginning of the film ever mentioned anymore? Whatever, it's a really stupid and lackluster film; let's just keep it at that. As usual with the productions he was involved in, special effects wizard Sergio Stivaletti delivers the finest piece of work. The budget was clearly minimal, but he nevertheless still managed to provide some pretty cool and engrossing effects.
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