Everything has been said and written about the giallo subgenre, initiated by Mario Bava at the end of the 60s, polished to near perfection by Dario Argento in the 70s while generating countless attempts at this specific kind of thriller, most of them Italian. It is generally admitted that the last great giallo was Argento’s 1987 Opera, with purists discarding it in favour of 1982 Tenebre, as it is bitterly regretted that the Italian master’s production since then had been a sad slide into the morass of self copy-pasting, resulting in movies varying from disappointing (Nonhasonno, Il Sindrome di Stendhal) to terrible (Trauma, Giallo), deprived of any of the visual brilliance his earlier work displayed.
Various attempts have been made at revamping the giallo form for contemporary film-goers, most of them ludicrous (German Masks, French Amer, to name but two). To this day, none can even remotely pass for a good giallo, the formula having been pre-empted by serial killers in the 90s and enshrined in amber ever since. It is therefore a very pleasant surprise to discover Eros Puglieli’s movie, who achieves a lot by virtue of a rather good screenplay, solid actors, an interesting choice of music and a visual parti-pris which mostly works in spite of a few weaknesses.
Inspector Amaldi (Luigi Lo Cascio, a little know but intense actor) is a conflicted man and a talented police officer with a background in criminal psychology. He was victim of a gruesome experience in his youth and finds himself confronted to a twisted killer with a keen interest in taxidermy, a niche discipline that he pushes a bit too far for the well being of a sizable portion of the cast. Meeting a good looking student complaining about a stalker, he has to dig deep into his abilities and emotions to find the killer before he finds her.
All the codes of giallo are respected in an otherwise contemporary feature: a vicious killer with a traumatic past killing his victims with sharp weapons and collecting trophies; coded enigmas announcing the next murder; obvious red herrings; a scary antique doll loaded with sexual implications; an oppressive soundtrack; “improbable when you eliminate the impossible” killer identity. Even the mandatory killer-falling-to his-death is delivered, in a rather satisfying scene. It could be said in fact that the only non-giallo component is a tight screenplay, as the genre is known to be prone to plot holes the size of a wound by ax.
Don’t pay too much attention to the shaky initial chase: the rest of the movie is much better filmed, with some inspired moments like a conversation between two characters cleverly filmed through a variety of visual obstacles. Evidently, the murder set pieces are what draws one to a giallo in the first place; without being overly gory they nevertheless reach a decent level of nastiness. Yellow is definitely an Italian colour.