The Film (3/5)
Sexually abused as a child and abandoned as a man, a psychopath descends into madness after a psychologist unleashes his once caged inner homicidal tendencies. After he disposes of his mental heath professional's bloodied corpse and severed head, he continues therapy by himself, spilling blood against those who made him into the monster he stands as today and also murdering anybody who gets in his way. He doesn't want to continue down this lonely path of destruction and death and even attempts the notion of falling in love again, but society expels rejection and his kind, a psychopathic killer, will always be rejected.
"Symphony in Blood Red" aka "Come un crisalide" is the 2010 freshman 'giallo' inspired film from director Luigi Pastore, who also co-wrote the film with Antonio Tentori, and has finally seen the light of a North American day courtesy of Lloyd Kaufman and Troma team. If the name Antonio Tentori might seem familiar to you, that's because it most likely is being that Tentori had an authoring hand in Lucio Fulci's "Demonia" and "A Cat in the Brain" and as well as Dario Argento's most recent schlock "Dracula 3D" with Rutger Hauer. Just from the first glance of screening "Symphony in Blood Red," Pastore caters to the Dario Argento 'giallo' genre while also adding his own personal artistic style and while 'giallo' is the declared genre of choice, the Pastore film is borderline art house cinema.
Experimental is a more appropriate label for this film that tends to lose chunks of the narrative through colorful visuals and smoothly blended flashbacks. The killer is the film's protagonist, an anti-hero, whose isolated and meaningless life is not told linearly and while that's suitable and entertaining in the majority of film structures, Pastore's defies the non-linear mold by weaving back and forth through the killer's past and future with a seamless fashion that's challenging for the mind that's also battling to offset the varicolored scenes and tone appointed soundtracks.
Much of the story is lost and baffling because of Pastore's artistic expressions and a repeat viewing might shed more clarity, but the killer didn't feel as if he was orchestrating his own rampage with precision. When I think of a symphony, an intricate step-by-step, line-by-line process must be adhered. Our anti-hero did follow some kind of path at first, strategically targeting the worst people in his life, but he also struck down random, if anything immoral, people who did not play a role in his pathetic life, thus, no longer making his symphonic plight one of harmony and of plan. Pastore yearns for homage and achieves many of the killer character traits used and created by Argento, but his own flair shadow's much of the mystery behind the killer.
The cruelty behind the bloody murders is what really stuck out for me and certainly puts Pastore's film right snug into the 'giallo' mix, placing Pastore and his film somewhere in a limbo staging area between good and, well, 'meh.' The red blood is rich and vivid and sprays with such ease that it can't be disliked or ignored. The first person view with knife in hand has always been a popular staple in these types of genre flicks and Pastore hits the nail square on the head, penetrating with the tip of the blade into his victims with a realistic effect - a great highlight. The killer, played also by the versatile Antonio Tentori, is the best piece to this film's puzzling nature as Tentori hones in the killer's brooding, conflicted, motivated, and unflinching nature. The killer stalks only those who he wishes not to make a corpse, but imposes his will upon them in order to try and save himself, even if that means his very own demise.
Troma has a nearly technically sound, North American release of "Symphony in Blood Red" on their hands. The anamorphic widescreen presentation is mostly clean and clear with very slight posterization during more of the darker scenes, but nothing major to affect viewing. The Pastore colors are vividly displayed and look beautiful on screen aside from some of the choice filters and grayscale adjustments. A few of the panning shots suffer from an annoying rolling shutter; the glitchy misfire of capturing a single image or two when taking a long shot.
The audio is presented in an Italian 2.0 stereo mix with forced English subtitles that align nicely and are translated, from what I can tell, properly. Each track is well balanced, especially the amazing soundtrack from the Italian occult rock band Demonia.
Aside from the usual Tromaville tacked on extras, Troma did a superb job by actually including bonus features related to the film. A documentary that includes Dario Argento and other legendary Italian filmmakers and director Luigi Pastore talk about the film's influences and direction. Basically, the whole documentary glorifies how Pastore respects the old ways of 'giallo' while adding something new. There is also a behind the scenes featurette and the original trailer for the film.
As I aforementioned, Tromaville likes to add their own line of bonus features which include "A Minute with Dario Argento" about making your very own movie, highlight reel of the 16th Tromadance Film Festival, "Kabukiman's Cocktail Corner" trailer and a music video directed by Lloyd Kaufman entitled "Faggot."
Like with all of Troma's releases, Lloyd Kaufman has his short pre-show stint to introduce "Symphony in Blood Red" in some wacky way. In this instance, Kaufman tackles being a crude early circa Argento look-a-like and invites adult film star Ophelia Rain to conduct a mock symphony of edited in gory scenes from Troma's film library .... in the nude none-the-less! To top it all off, she faux menstruates right in Kaufman's face. Doesn't get any classier.
"Symphony in Blood Red" nostalgically reminisces of the 'giallo' past and offers up the blood, the dementedness, and the boobs to quench the genre-geek's thirsts. For those of layman horror, the little substance and the heavy abstract will turn heads, cause eye lids to feel heavy, and tune into some confusion. The total Troma package is a great edition for a collector. The film itself has legs, but falls short from being a classic. I wouldn't stray away from future Pastore films as I think the visionary director has the talent and the skill to remind us of the good old Italian horror days. Recommended.