I thought I had seen it all...and then along came Al Festa's truly bizarre giallo-tribute schlocker 'Fatal Frames'!
The story basically involves a music video director (played by Sgt Kabukiman himself Rick Gianasi) who is invited to Rome to film a video for Euro-pop sensation Stefania Stella (played by amusingly enough Stefania Stella). Soon after arriving, a spate of grisly murders take place (carried out by the most entertaining stereotype black masked killer I've seen in ages!) and our poor Rick is caught in the frame!
Now, let me say I have never seen anything like 'Fatal Frames', ever. The film opens in a stunning grizzly manner complete with a cool 'snuff' clip flashback and a simply gorgeous giallo-style opening kill. But...then we jump to the Euro-pop delights of the films lead Stefania Stella and then for the next two hours or so (yes, it is a long film) I sat silently with my jaw hanging in complete wonderment at what was unfolding before my eyes!
I don't know, I still have very mixed feelings about this one. On one hand director Festa should be applauded for such an out and out tip of the hat to the golden age of Italian genre cinema, the kill scenes are amazing and some of the set pieces look stunning too - beautifully lit and shot with more than a passing resemblance to the work of folk like Argento and Bava. But, and its a big 'but', on the other hand I doubt I've ever seen so much hilarously bad acting in one film either!
The cast throughout are all hamming it up to the hilt, well that is apart from the wooden few that can't act to save themselves. Stefania Stella wins the prize here though for some of the most self indulgent on screen antics that I've ever came across - to be honest she can't act and she can't sing, and whilst 'Fatal Frames' is obviously an attempt as a vehicle for her talent (or lack of) she really would have done better to stay behind the camera and relinquished her role.
There's also a multitude of genre fave cameos that is in all honesty quite a sad experience to view also. Both the late great David Warbeck and Donald Pleasance appear. Pleasance amusingly is dubbed throughout and written out of the precedings in a hilarous manner that will tickle fans of the Halloween series and David Warbeck steals the show with some golden lines of dialogue (especially at the unintentionally amusing finale). But both look very run down and clearly show that they didn't indeed have long to go, very sad.
Another freaky point about the film is the lengthy running time. At over two hours long you may think that this must be some sort of directors cut, but hey, you'll notice watching the film that Festa has cut loads of footage down and used lots of overdubbing of the audio to keep the running time from going crazy! Elsewhere on the disc there's a selection of 'deleted' scenes that help back this theory up and I start to wonder whether that Festa had a three hour movie in the can but realised that viewers would start to go insane if they had to sit down to view such a lengthy experience!
Please don't get me wrong though, if I sound like I'm being harsh then I'm not really. Whilst there were many aspects of 'Fatal Frames' that I found to be just downright cheesy, the film has a gutsy charm that will endear you to it no end. So bad that it's good? Yup, I'm converted - a wee cracker (for all the wrong reasons!)
The disc from Synapse is everything that a 'Fatal' fan could wish for. The widescreen print shows off Festa's stylish setpieces just lovely and there's a whole host of extras crammed onto the disc that will entertain folk nicely also. As well as the aforementioned 'deleted' scenes there's a sizeable collection of Euro-pop videos by both Festa and Stella that will have fans of the oddball Eurovision Song Contest jumping for joy (not really my cup of tea, but hey, each to their own eh?!), a short (but sweet) 'Making Of' featurette and an audio commentary with both Festa and Stella.
What can I say, you'll either love it or hate it - me, I ended up loving the cheeky beggar! (Now if only I could get that bloody theme tune out of my head!) Check it out.
|Directed by Al Festa|
|Released by Synapse|
|Region '0' NTSC - Not Rated|
|Ratio - Widescreen|
|Running time : approx 125 mins|
|Making of Featurette|
|Audio Commentary with Al Festa and Stefania Stella|