TOP 12 BEST Italian horror movies of all time (pt. 1)

*Skip the premise (first two paragraphs) if you want to check out my take on the twelve movies and their trailers right away. Though I suggest you not to do so, since it will explain how I came up with this list*

As some of my readers might know, I’m Italian (my name, Luca Pincelli, doesn’t leave much to the imagination). However, I’m no expert on Italian cinema whatsoever and, to be honest, Italian movies have been mostly unimaginative and unwatchable in the last 30/35 – with a few worthy exceptions that, though, rarely belong to the horror genre.

Nevertheless, Italian horror had been both ground-breaking and influential on the genre in the late 60s, 70s and early 80s. And I might not be an expert on Italian movies, but I sure am a die-hard fan of 70s and early 80s horror flicks: thus, this list will feature mostly movies from that era which I personally (underline the word “personally”, please) love the most. However, they’re laid here in no particular order, since I wouldn’t really be able to say which one is my absolute favourite among these titles. Without further ado, let’s now dive into the list:

Inferno (Dario Argento, 1980) – Although Dario Argento is widely regarded to be the best horror filmmaker from Italy, Inferno doesn’t stand out among his best works in the popular opinion. I, however, must disagree, since this is probably my favourite movie of his. In Inferno, an American college student in Rome and his sister in New York investigate a series of killings in both locations where their resident addresses are the domain of two covens of witches. As straightforward as this plot description might sound, this film is everything but straightforward: the main reason why I love Inferno to pieces is that it combines seamlessly and marvellously a slasher, whodunit undertone with a surreal, almost dreamlike execution. Yet, cinematography and direction are flawless, with a few iconic shots thrown in the mix. Also, Inferno is filled with beautiful women (a trademark of Argento’s flicks) that serve as eye-candy. If you haven’t seen it yet, this one is a must… unless you want your movies to make sense plot-wise! (Inferno, 9.5/10)

The Beyond 1The Beyond (…E Tu Vivrai nel Terrore! L’Aldilà, Lucio Fulci, 1981) – Known in Italy only for his comedies (which is why Italy has a problem with cinema…), Lucio Fulci is worldwide regarded as the “Godfather of Gore”, thanks to his extreme zombie flicks and movies like The House by the Cemetery (which we’ll encounter later on the list… ) and, of course, The Beyond. In this one, a young woman inherits an old hotel in Louisiana where, following a series of supernatural “accidents”, she learns that the building was built over one of the entrances to Hell. This paper-thin plot gives Fulci the opportunity to go completely “beyond” (get it?) the realm of believability: in fact, The Beyond is insanely surreal and displays one over-the-top scene after the other, up to a climax that’s awesomely gruesome and violent. For all those reasons, I love The Beyond; however, I must say that the film also establishes a quite unique atmosphere. As opposed to Argento’s, Fulci’s films are much darker, subtler in terms of characters and slower in their build-up… and I can’t really explain why, but The Beyond pulls all the right strings for me, making it a perfect horror motion picture in my eyes. (The Beyond, 9/10)

Adam Chaplin (Emanuele and Giulio De Santi, 2011) – If you thought movies like Braindead, Tokyo Gore Police and Re-Animator were gory, you’d reconsider that once you’ve seen Adam Chaplin. This very low-budget indie flick follows Adam Chaplin (portrayed by Emanuele De Santi himself) investigating on his wife’s murder and discovering that mafia boss Denny, is involved. Unable to trust the corrupt police, Adam summons a demon to lead him to the murderer: the demon gives Adam inhuman strength, which he uses to punch and kick the shit out of people in the goriest way possible. Although the plot is paper-thin and the acting isn’t great, Adam Chaplin works as an entertaining gore fest that stands out thanks to the stylised fight scenes and the way over-the-top (unlike anything you’ve seen before) special effects. Besides, the movie features a surreal tone – in the film’s universe everybody looks ugly and deformed, which gives it an extra layer of interest (or awkwardness…). Strongly recommended only if you’re a true gore-hound! (Adam Chaplin, 7/10)

Eyes Without a FaceEyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage/Occhi senza Volto, Georges Franju, 1960) – The oldest movie on the whole list… and here I’m cheating a little bit, since this is mostly a French horror movie, albeit shot in Italy, starring a few Italian actors and produced by an Italian company. However, I really wanted to talk about it, since I mentioned it multiple times on my blog as one of my favourite horror movies ever. Indeed, Eyes Without a Face is definitely among my top 5 black and white horror films: it tells the story of a surgery gone wrong, when a surgeon accidentally leaves his daughter disfigured, and goes to the extreme to give her a new face. Highly disturbing for its time and still effective today, Eyes Without a Face is one of the most unconventional horror films I have seen. It’s philosophical (with a strong underlying message about identity), scary, impactful, extremely well-acted and atmospheric. Besides, slowly throughout the runtime, the viewer gets involved in two different storylines: on one side, there’s the doctor unskinning people to cure his daughter in a noir-fashioned way; on the other, Louise – the daughter – develops as a character you both fear and feel for. Besides the scientific inconsistencies – which require a high degree of suspension of disbelief – I consider Eyes Without a Face to be a perfect horror experience. (Eyes Without a Face, 9.5/10)

The House by the Cemetery (Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero, Lucio Fulci, 1981) – Has anyone seen We Are Still Here (2014)? That fantastic film is actually a re-imagination of The House by the Cemetery by Lucio Fulci. Very much like we’ve seen in The Beyond, this film revolves around a New England home terrorised by a series of murders, unbeknownst to the guests that a gruesome secret is hiding in the basement. Atmospheric, super slow but never dull or boring, filled with fantastic and captivating performances, this film is simply great. Nevertheless, what I appreciate the most about it are two aspects: the first one is represented by camera-work and editing, which are the best I’ve seen in the entire history of Italian horror film. Secondly, the grand finale is, simply put, marvellous: violent, fulfilling, gory, twisty… it’s got everything you can look for in a horror film. (The House by the Cemetery, 8.5/10)

Rabid Dogs 3Rabid Dogs (Cani Arrabbiati, Mario and Lamberto Bava, 1974) – Not released in the US until 1998, because it was deemed too harsh for American audiences, Rabid Dogs follows three violent criminals who take a young woman, a middle-aged man and a child hostage, and force them to drive them outside Rome to help them make a clean escape. This must be another rape and revenge tale, right? It partially is, but the movie features a great twist in the middle, which switches tone and subgenre quite abruptly. Rabid Dog isn’t as brutal as other 70s exploitation movies and features better characters than most of those movies. Perfect combination between horror and noir, this film made by Mario Bava and his son Lamberto is fast-paced (for the time) and captivating, due to the continuous twists and turns the filmmakers came up with. For some reason, Rabid Dogs never got the same credit as other great Italian horror movies, which is a shame, because this is a truly unique, mean-spirited, little movie. (Rabid Dogs, 8/10)

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