Are you searching for a respite from the Chicago cold this winter? Look no further. This January, Cinematic Void, the Los Angeles cult film series based at the American Cinematheque, has expanded its popular “January Giallo” film program by partnering with the Music Box Theatre’s Music Box of Horrors to bring moviegoers a weekly escape into the stylish subgenre.
Since 2017, January Giallo has celebrated the subgenre of Italian cinema popular in the 70s and 80s, known for applying striking psychedelic cinematography and shocking graphic violence to whodunit plots. The result is a mash-up of murder-mystery and horror-thriller often cited as a precursor to the American slasher that is sure to get viewers’ blood pumping.
January Giallo 2022 Essentials
Every Wednesday in January at 7:15 PM, Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, musicboxtheatre.com, $12 per screening.
Did someone say midwestern giallo? Set in Minnesota in 1993, Trauma is an exciting entry in Dario Argento’s oeuvre, marking the director’s first feature-length American production. The film follows Aura (Asia Argento), a young Romanian who, while on the run from her parents, is rescued by David Parsons (Christopher Rydell), a journalist and recovering drug addict. Aura, however, is caught and forcefully reunited with her parents, who are then heinously murdered by a serial killer. Known as The Headhunter, the murderer’s weapon of choice, which the film crew is said to have dubbed the “Noose-o-Matic,” makes for some good gore. With no one else to turn to, Aura reunites with David, and the mismatched pair investigate the series of gruesome and mysterious murders in this suspense-filled romp through Minneapolis.
The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail
Sergio Martino’s 1971 The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail is stunning. A look into the life of Lisa (Evelyn Stewart), who discovers her husband has died unexpectedly and that she must travel from London to Greece to collect his colossal life insurance policy, the film takes on a very glamorous jetsetter vibe, bolstered by the gorgeous views of Athens and the Greek coastline. That beauty is, of course, harshly contrasted with brutal violence as it becomes clear Lisa’s newfound fortune is desired by more than just herself and that the people who want it are willing to kill for it. With a stacked cast that features actors from other notable giallo films, this tangled take on marriage and money offers an arresting and carnage-filled caper. In Italian with English subtitles.
The Pyjama Girl Case
While watching giallo films can often be a disorienting experience, Flavio Mogherini’s 1977 The Pyjama Girl Case is masterful in its misdirection. From the setting to the score to the gore, this contemporary film will leave viewers reeling. Australia provides the unusually sun-scorched background for brutality. Meanwhile, the music, which includes both upbeat Euro-pop from Amanda Lear and a banger score by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust), dancing from the thump of electronics to the melody of harmonica, is as enjoyably jarring as the significant plot twists and steamy scenes. Partially based on one of Australia’s most well-known unsolved murders, it’s best to suspend the urge to Google it and instead go into this extra film knowing the least and getting the most. In Italian with English subtitles.
The Perfume of the Lady in Black
Saving the best for last, the program concludes with a rare 35mm screening of a technicolor print of Francesco Barilli’s 1974 entry into the subgenre. The hallucinatory giallo horror-thriller stars Mimsy Farmer as Silvia, a chemist suffering from strange visions, including the titular lady in black as well as a very menacing man. As more about Silvia’s psyche is revealed, it becomes clear the call is coming from inside the house. That is to say, it’s her own misdeeds that have left her haunted and increasingly unable to function as she verges on insanity. The Perfume of the Lady in Black is a compelling look at how easily one can muddle fact and fiction, memory and fantasy, into a concerning and confusing cocktail. In Italian with English subtitles.
All four rarely screened films are also currently available to stream on various online platforms.