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The name Sergio Stivaletti might not immediately ring a bell but this talented man has been part of the prominent Italian horror industry for over more than two decades now. Stivaletti is the regular special effects designer/make up artist of Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Michele Soavi (and isn't it true that we especially love their films for the visuals?) and in the late nineties he made his directorial debut with the terrific but regretfully overlooked "The Wax Mask". Stivaletti's Wax Mask already was a beautiful homage to the ancient Gothic wax museum thrillers but he really excelled oneself here with this nearly brilliant tribute to vintage horror. In a good old-fashioned anthology style (the references towards Mario Bava's "Black Sabbath" and Freddie Francis' "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" are numerous) Stivaletti centers on three train passengers who're each served an eerie experience, involving three classic B-movie themes: the hideous lake-monster, a mad doctor and my personal favorite the werewolf! Two men and a woman are approached by this hypnotist, played by John Phillip Law from "Danger: Diabolik!", and they have a vision from looking into the crystal attribute he's carrying with him. In "The Moonring", two small crooks rob an Etruscan grave in command of a rich collector. One of them keeps a valuable ring for himself and he soon finds himself undergoing a horrifying transformation. The curse of the Etruscan mummy, attached to wearing the ring, is turning him into a ravenous werewolf! This first story was my absolute favorite! Not only because it features an authentic werewolf but because it has great sets, atmospheric scenery and wondrous gore! The werewolf metamorphosis is fantastic and, without a doubt, the best since "An American Werewolf in London". The numerous werewolf fans subscribed at this site should check out this film if it were only for the transformation. The second chapter "Dr. Lifting" works especially as a spoof towards the recent trend of unnecessary plastic surgery and as an ode to classic Gothic chillers in which obsessive doctors desperately attempt to succeed in face-transplantation. A young woman who already had a few beauty-operations enters the cabinet of Dr. Fisher (obvious reference to the famous Hammer director), with the request to look exactly like her actress friend Sandra. The coolness of this tale depends on the rhythmic use of beat music and the icky images of surgery tools. The gore in this story is outrageous and brutal and will definitely be appreciated by the most demanding horror fanatic. The third and final story catapults you straight back to the glorious 50's! This story represents the glorious creature feature and giant monster sub genre. A remote lake is inhabited by a cheesy monster that assaults young visitors upon their arrival.
The entire film is filled with a great, typically Italian musical score and Stivaletti proves himself to be a very gifted director who stood in the shadows of Italy's greatest for too long. Of course, I can't really claim that "The Three Faces of Terror" is a total masterpiece and must admit that the viewer has to endure a few regretful flaws. (Extra spoiler alert!) The wraparound story eventually becomes a bit tedious and I'm not sure if Stivaletti's idea to make all the stories end abruptly, only to bring them all together near the end, was such a good one. It sort of feels like the tension is being cut off at the climax... (End spoiler!) Nevertheless, this is a movie that proves a lot of things: European horror is not dead and there are still writers and directors that respect the genre and equally long for the old times. To me personally, it also proved that the Italien horror industry still easily beats the over-hyped Asian market. I saw "I tre volti del Terrore" at a festival, presented by Sergio Stivaletti himself. It was nice to witness an exclusive premiere but moreover I hope that this film will receive a world-wide release, so that it can reach the largest possible horror audience. If you have the change of seeing it: don't hesitate!
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