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.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Qualcosa striscia nel buio (1971)

... aka: Shadows in the Dark
... aka: Something Creeping in the Dark
... aka: Something Is Crawling in the Dark

Directed by:
Mario Colocci

Professor Lawrence: "When will this nightmare end?"
BPOH Spokesperson: "97 grueling minutes, to be exact."

After a brief car chase, a pair of police detectives; Inspector Wright (Dino Fazio) and his partner Sam (Frank Beltramme), apprehend smarmy homicidal maniac Spike (top-billed Farley Granger). Coming up right behind them on the road are wealthy, bickering couple Donald (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) and Sylvia (Lucia Bosé) Forrest, who are on their way to a party. A bad rainstorm has washed out a bridge ahead, so everyone attempts to backtrack and discover that fast-approaching flood waters have washed out the road leading back into town. Along with old, knowledgeable Professor Lawrence (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino), Doctor Williams ("Stan Cooper" / Stelvio Rosi), who's answering an emergency call, and his nurse assistant Susan West (Mia Genberg), the eight stranded travelers find themselves in the same predicament: stuck out in the country late into the night with no place to go. Thankfully, there's a creepy old mansion located nearby.

Joe ("John Hamilton" / Gianni Medici) now lives in the home and he's less-than-friendly to his unwelcome visitors but lets them stay the night there because the Chief Inspector gives him no other choice. For some reason Joe also keeps his nameless, scantily-clad girlfriend (Giulia Rovai) basically quarantined in their bedroom and doesn't want her to socialize with anyone else. The rain keeps coming, the phone is out because of the bad weather, eventually they lose electricity and then they learn the sordid back history of the place. It's former owner - Sheila Marlowe - was as eccentric woman who was rumored to have had an interest in the occult, may have murdered her husband but was acquitted of all charges and died under mysterious circumstances. And some of this group will also soon die under mysterious circumstances, especially after Sylvia gets bored and decides to hold a séance to contact Sheila's restless spirit.

Despite being given enough tranquilizers "to put a horse to sleep," the neurotic Donald becomes possessed (twice), frees the dangerous killer, kills his nasty wife (after she has a roughie sex fantasy about Spike chasing her around and beating her) and then kills himself. In a bit that goes absolutely nowhere, the reserved Susan also becomes possessed, climbs into bed with her boss for some hanky panky and somehow manages to not even get naked. Moaning spirits float around in the hallways. Lights flicker. Footsteps are heard. Doors creak open. Shadows form on the walls. Boxes fall over. A few people have hallucinations. Wind blows through the trees. Ticking clocking lining the hallways start and stop. Spikes lurks around outside, gets in a fist fight with one of the cops and finally bashes in his head with a rock. And the finale - which is pretty much a rip-off of THE HAUNTING - features the survivors standing around in a room as a door rattles and shakes.

Sounds like your typical old dark house set-up with a dash of Ten Little Indians, right? Unfortunately, this painfully dull and utterly pointless dud - perhaps an attempt at a 'classier' old-fashioned film - goes absolutely nowhere. There's zero suspense, the characters are unlikable, the dialogue is awful, the storyline is unfocused, exploitation elements are almost non-existent (there's no gore and one brief nude scene), it takes a full hour to get to the first murder sequence and it just kind of peters out with a non-thrilling non-ending. Even the presentation of this material is completely flat. This could very well be the least atmospheric Italian Gothic horror film of the 60s and 70s. There's hardly any good camerawork and the drab sets are sparsely decorated just like a porno movie set. I kept playing "Where's Waldo?" scouring the rooms for a potted plant just to help pass the time.

The version I viewed (titled Something Creeping in the Dark) was the Japanese release through Midnight Video. It's widescreen and English-dubbed. The one second flash of female frontal nudity is scrambled but I'm afraid a million and one singing, dancing hoo-ha's twirling flaming batons couldn't save this one.


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