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Frank Zito misses his mother, who was killed in a car accident years before. She was abusive to him, and made money selling her body, but Frank still misses her. He tries to keep her from leaving him, and reform her evil ways, by killing young women and putting their scalps on mannequins which he displays around his apartment. Photographer Anna D'Antoni takes a picture of him in the park, and he pursues and befriends her. Is she the one he has been looking for or just another mother wannabe?Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
The film's distributor had a unique campaign to support its release in New York: mini-screen kiosks were set up in front of theatres that were showing the film in 1980 that had several minutes of uncut footage, including gory murders. However, the campaign backfired when Gene Siskel condemned it on both his regular TV reporting and "At The Movies", leading to a backlash against the film's violence and the cancellation of plans to have the kiosks used in such major markets as Chicago and Los Angeles. See more »
The photo that Anna is developing - of Frank accidentally running into a little girl on a bike - is not the same as the distance she was from, when she first took it. See more »
Horror is most purely about the violent impulse that surges from behind the eyes, the mist it creates; a story can be anything. Here it's the simplest story, man goes crazy in the big city, unable to contain the impulse, the whole seen through his mist.
There's a trauma that haunts him we find out, his cramped apartment is the mind then that fixates on memory and dwells among the fragments. The walls are lined with old photos of women, mannequins are scattered around; objects of a dead representation that he hoards unable to let go.
Quite a bit more of that story is explained to us later on, not much interesting; Freudian stuff about a mother, a vengeful child who never grew. But there's nothing we can't know by just seeing him pace up and down in his apartment, muttering to himself.
There's later a human connection to a photographer girl who snaps a picture of him one day in the park. The scenario is completely forced, a stranger and complete weirdo knocks on her door one day and they're best friends within minutes. It's something a weirdo much like the character would imagine (or write about).
But it's an opportunity to get closer to the real source, put our finger on the pulse; she a photographer who also freezes life into image but she's able to let go of it and share it in the open, while it just drives him to madness. We see her fuss with her models during a shoot much like he does with his gruesome mannequins; but her fiction has life, playfulness.
There's of course the violence, though it doesn't cut like perhaps it did then. It's still bloody and vivid. But what makes it powerful in its niche is the air of desperation around it, the whole film an internal monologue carving its garbled madness on the body of the night.
New York looks suitably barren, from the time before the makeover when people would walk down streets as bleak as in this film to see movies like it in dingy fleapit cinemas down 42nd street. The film is from that time when horror could still unsettle with the thought that somewhere in the same city, deranged souls very much like the character skulked around with a camera having horrible thoughts like this.
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