Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Paganini Horror (1988)

...aka: Killing Violin, The

Directed by:
Luigi Cozzi

Tacky, colorful, confusing, mildly-entertaining drivel seems to be the European answer to the short-lived North American 'heavy metal horror' subgenre; films that typically revolved around Lycra-clad, big-haired rock band members being terrorized by supernatural (usually Satanic) forces. Said subgenre included the titles Rocktober Blood (1984), Monster Dog (1984), Hard Rock Zombies (1985), Trick or Treat (1986), ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (1987), SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (1987), BLACK ROSES (1988), DEAD GIRLS (1989), Hard Rock Nightmare (1989), HEAVY METAL MASSACRE (1989; directed by David De Falco and so obscure it's currently not even listed on IMDb), SCREAM DREAM (1989), SHOCK 'EM DEAD (1990) and probably a few others I'm forgetting. This one, from the director of the usually-well-regarded giallo THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN (1975), the silly sci-fi adventure Starcrash (1979) and the unofficial, unauthorized Suspiria "sequel" THE BLACK CAT (1989) - amongst others - is neither the best nor the worst of the lot, though it's far from what most would consider good.

A nearly all-female rock band headed by singer/songstress Kate (Jasmine "Main" / Maimone) has hit a creative slump, as evidenced by their atrocious "You Give Love a Bad Name" opening rip-off number. To help matters, drummer Daniel (Pascal Persiano) purchases an unreleased composition written by famous Italian violinist Niccolo Paganini from Mr. Pickett (a diabolically dubbed and goofy acting Donald Pleasance). Upon hearing the track and learning of its origins, the band's bitchy, money-hungry producer Lavinia (Maria Cristina Mastrangeli) decides to hire famous horror film director Mark Singer (Pietro Genuardi) to shoot a horror-themed music video in Paganini's former home; the same place where the violinist reputedly sold his soul to Satan to become famous. It isn't long before most of the cast - which includes Daria Nicolodi as the current owner of Paganini's home and sexy guitarists Michel Klippstein and Luana Ravegnini - are facing various supernatural horrors.

For starters, there's a ghostly, echo-voiced, gold masked killer lurking around who uses a gold violin with a retractable blade. There's also an underground tunnel which leads to an alternate dimension (?!), strange shrill noises that incapacitate people and an electric forcefield which surrounds the house (?!) and is able to blow up a car. Some of the death scenes are pretty bizarre. Someone is crushed by an invisible wall; another is mutated by some kind of infectuous tree fungus (!) Oh yeah, and one of the females may be a little girl who toasted her mum in the bathtub with a hair dryer years earlier. The final scene tries to tie all the loose ends together but only succeeds in making things even more confusing than they already were.

There's some mild gore (fx are variable) and no less than three musical numbers, including a pretty funny music video. Everything is drenched in blue, red and green colors because the director is an Argento devotee (and had helped write a couple of Argento's earlier projects).


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