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Maria Luisa Geisberger,
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In the late eighties, it seemed like the Italian film industry went full out to create an interest in their horror movies, resulting in cheeseball films like The Red Monks, Ghosthouse and Witchery. Fulci gave us House of Clocks (good), Aenigma (okay), Demonia and Sweethouse of Horrors (painful), and Lenzi had House of Lost Souls (good) and House of Witchcraft. You've Lamberto Bava's Graveyard Disturbance and Demons 3 The Ogre out there too, not to mention those Zombi sequels and Marcello Avalone's Spectres and Maya and etc etc. None of those are as effective or genuinely scary as Spider Labyrinth. Why, I'm not quite sure, but this film lacks the cheese factor of any of those films and seems to go all out for creating a surreal, creepy atmosphere.
In America, a company who are working on an international project have lost touch with a Professor Roth in Budapest, so they send one of their own, Professor Whitmore, out to Hungary to find out what's going on. He's driven to Roth's house by Roth's beautiful assistant, only to be warned by Roth's wife that he's been acting strangely. Roth himself does appear to be freaked out by something, and when alone with Whitmore, gives him some notes and Polaroid photographs and tells him to meet him later that evening.
Whitmore then goes to his hotel, run by a creepy lady and apparently full of strange residents who continually stare at Whitmore. He also discovers that Roth's assistant lives across the road and isn't shy about showing of her assets, if you know what I mean. Once he goes back to Roth he finds the man murdered (hanging from the ceiling by cobwebs), and that he never had a wife in the first place. That's bad enough, but the local policeman takes Whitmore's passport, so now he's stuck in a strange land.
He decides to do a bit of investigating and this leads to people (including William Berger) trying to warn him off, him getting lost in Budapest itself (where the city seems to deliberately get him lost), and a strange creature with a nerve shattering shriek going around killing people. I'll go no further than that plot wise.
What works here is the great music, cinematography, and the ending, which took me by surprise. There's no attempts here to connect with the youth eighties style by having youngsters in the film (like Ghosthouse or House of Lost Souls), no cheese (as in Witchouse), and some serious time has been spent making every shot creepy, to give you the feeling that every single person Whitmore encounters has something to hide. I see similarities with Argento in some respects, but this film unfolds a lot more slowly and there's not a drop of blood until 40 minutes in.
I'd never even heard of this film until last week, and I've been actively seeking out Italian horror for over fifteen years! It's available on Youtube in a blurry, Japanese subtitled version, so you can watch it for free, but this needs to be released on DVD. It's brilliant.
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