A Rome policewoman teams up with a British Interpol agent to find a crafty serial killer whom plays a taunting game of cat-and-mouse with the police by abducting and killing young women and showing it over an Internet web cam.
A college film student, obsessed with the works of Alfred Hitchcock, investigates a murder committed in the apartment building across from his and suspects that his seductive neighbor hired a girlfriend to commit the deed.
A newspaper reporter and a retired, blind journalist try to solve a series of killings connected to a pharmaceutical company's experimental, top-secret research projects and in so doing, both become targets of the killer.
A medieval reenactment troupe find it increasingly difficult to keep their family-like group together, with pressure from local law enforcement, interest from entertainment agents and a growing sense of delusion from their leader.
"The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar": The gold-digger Jessica Valdemar and her lover Dr. Robert Hoffman plot a scheme to take the money of her old and terminal husband Ernest Valdemar. Robert has hypnotized Valdemar to give his money to Jessica. Out of the blue, Valdemar dies while hypnotized and is stranded between the world of the living and the dead. Robert finds the experience fascinating and Valdemar asks him to take him out of the trance since other spirits are stalking him. However Jessica shots the corpse of Valdemar twice expecting to finish his contact with the world of the living. But soon she learns that Valdemar had been already possessed by evil forces. "The Black Cat": In Pennsylvania, the tabloid photographer Roderick Usher that explores gruesome crime scenes where Detective Legrand is investigating. Rod has been living for four years with his girlfriend Annabel, who is a violinist. When she brings a stray black cat home, Rod immediately hates the animal. Soon Rod ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
delivers, up to a point, for both sets of fans; it's Poe with a chaser of slightly modern twists
It's always tricky to evaluate a filmmaker when at work on a film that is in an in-between realm of short and feature. Actually, by technical ruling (or what would be considered by most festivals), it is feature-length with each segment. But I found Two Evil Eyes an underrated effort, after reading many mixed reviews (many leaning to the lesser side for especially Romero's film, and some faint praise for Argento's). The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar and The Black Cat are not the tippy-toppest best for either filmmaker, and for Romero it's a strange kind of quasi-conventional experiment while Argento stays in somewhat familiar territory. Each has its own strengths, own weaknesses, and it's a fine little treat.
'Valdemar': This starts with the veneer of what comes in the range of something like a cross between daytime Soap and a 40s melodrama. A woman (Adrienne Barbeau) married Mr. Valdemar late in life, and as he's about to die (and soon does) she stands to collect a load of money with her cuckold- a smooth operating doctor who has a knack for hypnosis.
What unfolds after his death, and their cover-up in order to secure more funds, is something still like a 'living-dead' movie for the director, but more psychological in head-games and, to be sure, a faithfulness to the Poe source. It is a peculiar feat to adjust to in seeing Romero, at least in the first half hour, directing more like an old pro of the studio era than with his trademark panache in editing and shocks.
This time he brings on the dread in a gradual fashion, built on guilt and paranoia, and then as Valdemar is in that freezer, a Gothic form of psychosis: two people stuck with a body, and a voice, they can't get rid of and become absorbed with. I liked it a lot- maybe more than I should have from what I read (the 'Soap' argument against it I read before, though Romero does try to give his actors more to work with than any hack would)- as it preys on the fear of death as not a final measure, with one last wicked kick in the nuts with that bed scene. Top shelf Romero? Not quite, but it's still oddly gripping, like a polished piece of clichés giving way to a wild head game of "old-school" horror.
8/10 'Black Cat': Argento's dip in the Poe pool goes to the lengths that he as a director always goes to: elaborate-to-the-Italian-horror degree style in camera and deranged horror, and even bits of dark horror that almost make Poe seem tame. I can't say how much this is tied into Poe more than I can Valdemar, but try as I might I couldn't see this as being totally peak Argento either, despite (or almost in spite of) everything he has going for it. Like Valdemar, it's about someone not coping with life after death; a photographer (Keitel) into the macabre, with a (color me shocked Argento) violinist girlfriend, has a black cat, whom the photographer strangles while taking some provocative photos. She knows he's behind it, but he can't stop himself- he needs another cat- just like the old cat- which will meet some grisly consequences.
Keitel's always game for something like this part, which plays like his Bad Lieutenant gone Grand Guignol, which makes for one of the best pleasures of the project. He doesn't have a whole lot of range in the role, but it's a fun one for him, chewing on the meat that Argento throws out for him scene after scene. Argento, meanwhile, even for *him* overdoes it with the horror music in certain scenes, and dares to go to too much excess with the symbolism of the white spots on the cat. But it's totally a wonder to see that dream sequence, where Keitel is in the midst of a medieval Pagan sacrifice, with a sharp cut-away in the most violent bit.
And I loved the pleasure that Argento takes in enlivening Poe's macabre with his own, with the violence extending from mania into the visual. I had my complaints at times, but it's hard to not throw up one's hands with Argento and say "why carp!" when he's unabashed in his passions of mostly constant camera movement (tracking, cranes, close-ups, pans, you-name-it) and illogical steps in plot (i.e. why Keitel's character would even put out a book with cat deaths knowing his girlfriend might see them, let alone so soon).
8/10 Bottom line, fans of the directors should check out the films, and decide for themselves how they do. It's two tall tales of curses and death, derangement and the surreal, and it's a concoction worth at least one viewing.
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