A very disturbing opening sequence depicting a bound man being graphically stabbed to death by an unseen figure sets the scene for one of the best films ever to come out of Italy.
A small town in Italy holds the dubious claim to fame that it was the home of Bruno Legnani, a painter of some note who was known as "The painter of agonies". The local church contains one of his wall paintings which depicts the murder of Saint Sebastian by two mysterious figures.
The painting is in need of restoration, and a young artist , Stefano, is hired to work on the painting. He moves into a hotel in the village, and quickly meets up with his friend Antonio. Stefano quickly becomes obsessed with the life of Legnani and his macabre paintings, and resolves to unravel the painters secrets. Antonio tells him that he has unearthed a strange story about the artist, but when he is murdered before he can tell the story to Stefano, Antonio realises that the village holds a dark secret and that his life is in danger.
Stefano realises that Legnani's twisted paintings were produced using live models who were being tortured to death, and that more than one person in the village was aware of this grim secret.
Thats' all I'm prepared to reveal about the plot, as the grimly disturbing atmosphere of Avati's film is best savoured if you know as little about the story as possible.
House with the Windows that Laugh, along with Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling takes something as innocuous as a small provincial town and turns it into almost a palpable entity itself, with the titular House almost becoming a living, breathing character.
If you've seen any of Avati's previous films, you will know that he is not averse to taking his time building the story, and House is certainly no exception. This does however work in the films favour, and as the plot twists begin to unravel the hairs will stand up on the back of your neck.
Pupi Avati is a master craftsman, and, in my book, he is one of the most skilled directors ever to come out of Italy. House with the Windows that Laugh is his best film, and that is obviously a huge recommendation from me.