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Fatal Frames

Review by: 
Release Date: 
Synapse Films
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Al Festa
Stefania Stella
David Warbeck
Rossano Brazzi
Donald Pleasance
Linnea Quigley
Bottom Line: 

I really don't know where to begin with this one. Fatal Frames is a mess, that's for sure. Al Festa is a huge fan of the Italian giallo, and he decided to pay homage to the genre with this startling effort. He, along with his partner, Stefania Stella, quickly amassed the financing to begin the picture, which as well as containing all the staple features of a typical giallo was also meant to be a showcase for the singing talents of Stefania. Festa had previously directed a number of cheesy music videos, some of which are seen on the Synapse DVD. He immediately signed up some of the biggest names in horror cinema; Pleasance, Scrimm, Warbeck, as well as a few ageing Italian superstars such as Brazzi, and Ugo Pagliai, and proceeded to shoot his opus in such locales as the Trevi fountain and Rome.

Unfortunately, various investors soon pulled out, leaving Festa to shoot his film over a lengthy period of time as he could raise the cash. Unfortunately, a number of his stars died and Al had to use body doubles to complete some of their scenes.

Anyway, on to the plot (if it can indeed be described as such). An old man watching snuff videos is surprised by his grandson. The unfortunate boy is then forced to watch the footage, and indeed eventually seems to be enjoying it!

Cut to the modern day, and video director Alex Ritt is persuaded to travel to Italy to shoot a music video for the aforementioned Stella. His wife has recently become the third victim of the serial killer, The Video Killer, and he figures that the trip might do him some good. However, when he arrives in Italy the murders continue, and Ritt soon becomes a suspect in the case. Ritt is a witness to a murder in the Colisseum, but when the police arrive the body has disappeared.

An FBI agent from the States soon arrives, along with the father of Ritt's wife, who quickly points the finger of suspicion at Ritt. The Italian police Inspector on the case is played by the marvelous David Warbeck, who appears to have taken far too much caffeine as he spends the entire film shouting and screaming at every other cast member, and, in one memorable scene, approaches a member of the video production team barking, ”Do you know this girl?”, while flashing a photograph of the victims decapitated head!

More murders occur, and we also see a number of music videos in their entirety, all featuring the pneumatic charms of Stella Stefani, whose breasts are so large that she looks like she has been shot in the back with a pair of Polaris missiles. These musical interludes are TOTALLY out of place compared to the rest of the film, and are almost Bollywood-like in their appearance.

Donald Pleasance then appears, but unfortunately, his subsequent death meant that an unconvincing body double appears in the infamous scene where his character is at the airport and says ”I have to be home for Halloween”, with Carpenter's Halloween music playing in the background - a sad way for Donald to make his final appearance to be sure.

A word for Rick Gianisi, who plays the male lead, Alex Ritt. He's so wooden that he appears to have been doused with Cuprinol, he appears to read all his lines from an idiot board (soon to be renamed a Gianisi board!!)

Linnea Quigley also makes an appearance (in fact Steve Johnson, her husband at the time, was responsible for the special effects), and is absolutely useless, as well as looking a bit past her sell-by date.
Reading all of the above, it certainly appears that I am here to bury Festa's effort, but in reality, although it is a poor film by normal standards, by my rather twisted standards, it is a piece of amazing, delirious entertainment that is so bad that you can't help be entertained by what you are seeing. The film has the same effect as watching a two hour music video (yes, the running time is over two hours!) - it's all filter lights, whirling cameras, dry ice and smoke effects, with an amusingly cheesy synthesizer score.

The Synapse DVD is probably the best you can expect for a film of this nature, and is available very cheaply from most suppliers, but bearing in mind my somewhat skewed sensibilities when it comes to films of this nature, don't blame me if you end up hating this one- Me? I've watched it three times!!

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