FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 4, 2009

Day 4: "Don't be scared."

I first learned of The House with Laughing Windows via Kimberly Lindbergs's excellent Cinebeats, a site you should all be reading if you're not already. She wrote about the 1976 movie as she argued that Pupi Avati is an underappreciated and overlooked director who's made some of the best horror films that no one's seen; her description of House intrigued me- the photos she posted, even more so. Now that I've seen the movie for myself, well...I can only hope that my post will also cause readers to seek out the work of Avati. It's some sort of grassroots cyber viral marketing campaign chainletter!

Lino Capolicchio stars as Stefano, a young man summoned to a church in a small, rural Italian village in order to restore a fresco. The painting, which graphically depicts the murder of Saint Sebastian, is the work of the late Legnani, infamously known as "The Painter of Agonies". As he uncovers more and more of the piece, Stefano becomes embroiled in the mystery of Legnani's sordid history- and he wonders why the town is so content to keep its secrets. Dead bodies turn up, then disappear; footsteps echo in dark hallways; and of course there's the titular house, where Legnani resided with his two psychotic sisters.

If you like your horror along the lines of Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, then're in for a treat with The House with Laughing Windows. The film's Italian pedigree may have you thinking "giallo", but House is another flavor entirely, almost supernatural in its feel. There's a pervasive sense of dread from the opening frames until the very end, and while there are flashes of violence, the film is more about unsettling the viewer as you dive deeper into the bizarre world of Legnani and the villagers. Events slowly, gradually, and constantly build towards a creepy climax that's as off-putting as that in Roeg's effort.

The film is, quite simply, a work of art in and of itself. Colors pop off the screen, the compositions are always enthralling, and the camera moves in a way that keeps you feeling off-center, adding to the uncanny experience. Every frame is drool-worthy.

The House with Laughing Windows has been the highlight of my SHOCKTOBER thus far, and I think it'll remain that way for some time. Thanks for the recommendation, Cinebeats...I knew The Internet was good for something (besides Murphy Brown fan fiction, of course)!


Anonymous said...

I LOVE this film!! Glad you enjoyed it so much!

Stacie Ponder said...

Really, really, really a fantastic movie. I'm gonna check out Avati's Zeder ASAP!

Ryan Clark said...

I just watched this a couple weeks ago myself and I have to say I was mostly unimpressed. The more I think about it though, the more I have this feeling I will be giving it another chance in the near future...

Nick said...

If you're enjoying Italian horrors with hints of Don't Look Now, you should certainly make a beeline for Who Saw Her Die? -

Used to be available in a four-disc Giallo Collection set but also seems to have a US solo release on Amazon.

Laughing Windows is indeed a corker.

Jason Adams said...

Dude this is SO WEIRD - I just watched this movie yesterday afternoon! WEIRD! I really enjoyed it too - in fact I've got an image from that bonkers climax set for my banner later this week at MNPP. It is a crazy good-looking film.

Dave S said...

stacie -- kimberly turned me onto this flick through her site too, and i LOVE it. i followed it up with 'zeder', which i have to say was a major let down for me. of course, the version i saw was a dub from a greek videotape(!). i don't know if you've seen 'the perfume of the lady in black" with mimsy farmer, but that's another flick i HIGHLY recommend you check out if you haven't. i loves me some mimsy!

soloparolesparse said...

I'm italian and Pupi Avati is really one of the best genre director we have. I love him for his horror film buta he directed also beutiful comedy.

Stacie Ponder said...

Nick, thanks for the recommendation- I'll check it out!

JA, it's obvious that we're morphing into some sort of massive blogging...blob. Thing. I see no problem with that!

Dave, thanks for YOUR recommendation. I'll seek it out...not least because it features Mimsy Farmer. The world needs more girls named Mimsy.

soloparolesparse, in the Cinebeats post, where I learned of this movie, Kimberly mentioned that Avati did great work in all genres. That's truly the sign of a master director, if you ask me.

Kevin J. Olson said...

Okay this is really weird...I'm getting ready to watch this tonight so I can post something on it for my Italian Horror blog-a-thon.

After looking at your screen caps I am really excited to watch this tonight. I've heard nothing but great things about the movie and about how Avati was one of the most underrated Italian horror filmmakers. He's one of just a few directors whose work I have yet to see.

I'll come back and read what you had to say about the film after I watch it.

Anonymous said...

I found the movie fairly annoying - it's very well made, looks beautiful, I didn't mind the slow pace and I could see what they were trying to do, but two points really bothered me (some spoilers):

1. The twist or big reveal is a bit of a cheat


2. I found the protagonist incredibly annoying - I understand that the idea was that he's overwhelmed by the horror he experiences and might have the entire village against him, but I still expected him to put up at least a bit of a fight instead of spending his entire time whimpering and waiting for some old ladies to stab him.
Always thought "Dagon" makes for a nice comparison here - the guy in that movie is arguably even worse off and not meant to be your typical action hero, but at least he reacts in a credible way, whereas the protagonist in "House" is just too much of a wimp to be taken seriously.

I wonder how reactions would've been if the protagonist had been female instead and I believe they probably would've been a lot less positive - essentially Stefano is even worse than a particular bad and passive female victim in a slasher film.

Less Lee Moore said...

I really wanted to like this movie. The opening was super creepy. But it just got super boring afterwards and didn't keep my interest.

Rochester Swift said...

I love this film, but you really need to be in the right mood for it's slow burn and down beat ending. Why in the hell hasn't it been released on Bluray yet!?!?!