Friday, June 15, 2012

Murder obsession (Follia omicida) (1981)

... aka: Fear
... aka: Murder Obsession
... aka: Murder Syndrome
... aka: Paura
... aka: Satan's Altar
... aka: Unconscious
... aka: Wailing, The

Directed by:
"Robert Hampton" (Riccardo Freda)

Actor Michael Stanford (Stefano Patrizi) is playing a psycho in a new horror film and seems to be getting a little too into his role, actually strangling actress Beryl (Laura Gemser) until the crew intervenes and pulls him off of her. Though his co-star is slightly shaken up (though not nearly as much as she should be!), director Hans (Henri Garcin) seems happy about his convincing portrayal. While going through some old family pictures later that evening, Michael decides to go visit his estranged mother Glenda (Anita Strindberg), whom he hasn't seen in years. Flashbacks show how Michael's father William (also played by Patrizi) keeled over from a heart attack while conducting an orchestra and also reveal that Michael may have stabbed him to death as a child. Michael decides to bring along his girlfriend Debora Jordan (Silvia Dionisio) on the trip and invites part of the crew to come out later so they can discuss the film they're working on. Upon arriving to his childhood home - a dark and very gloomy mansion, naturally - the butler and estate caretaker Oliver (John Richardson) informs Michael that his mother is very sick... Indeed she is!

Glenda seems a little too close for comfort with her son, who's a dead ringer for her deceased husband. She kisses him, caresses him, lets her breast fall out of her nightgown while he hugs her and constantly gives him loving looks... and I don't mean harmless knowing glances usually shared between parents and children. Strangely, Michael introduces his girlfriend to his mother as being his secretary, presumably not to upset her, which understandably pisses Debora off. She's also not too happy that she's stuck sleeping in a bedroom alone on the other side of the house as Michael. The next day, director Hans, leading lady Beryl and assistant director Shirley (Martine Brochard) all arrive at the home. Glenda welcomes them and seems glad to have some company. Later that night everyone sits around sipping wine and discussing the supernatural. And it isn't long before people start experiencing something supernatural. The home shakes, muddy foot prints appear on the floor, doors seem to open and close on their own, lights flicker (blamed on the home's poor wiring) and Beryl is almost drown while taking a bath by a mysterious gloved assailant who seems to disappear into thin air.

During a nightmare sequence which lasts nearly ten minutes, Debora (breasts flopping out of her nightgown the entire time) is attacked by a guy with a disfigured face, runs into a web with a giant rubber spider on it, gets attacked by bats on strings, gets caught up in some tree branches and then passes out when a bunch of skulls cry blood on her. When she comes to, she's tied to a cross, gets her clothes ripped off by a mutant cultist, is forced to drink fresh chicken blood (from a real chicken they've just killed) and is attacked by the big spider, whose legs turn into fuzzy arms. Michael finally admits to having murdered his father as a child and now claims to suffer from "psycho traumatic disassociation," which involving blacking out for several minutes at a time only to awaken with no recollection of what he's done. While out in the forest, Beryl, already almost strangled by Michael on the movie set and already almost drowned in her bath just the night before, turns around and spots Michael glaring at her and holding a knife. So what does she do? Run? Scream for help? Say "What the hell is your problems?" Nope. She has sex with him (!) while Hans hides in the bushes snapping pictures.

People eventually start dropping like flies. When Michael wakes up from his encounter with Beryl, she's dead and there's a bloody knife next to them. Hans, having witnessed the murder, runs back to the house and tries to leave but someone surprises him with an axe to the head instead. Suspicious Hans left his camera behind (he never goes anywhere without it), Shirley decides to develop the film in an attic darkroom and gets decapitated with a chainsaw. After finding Shirley's head, Debora tries to run off during a rainstorm and ends up in black-gloved clutches of the killer instead. All that's left is to unveil a few skeletons in the family closet. The hopelessly muddled plot tells two conflicting stories from mother and servant and everything from adultery, blackmail, spousal abuse, sleepwalking, rape and even Satanism is trotted out in the last fifteen minutes.

Freda's film - which first saw the light of day in the U.S. under the title Fear (released on the Wizard VHS label) - is a very mediocre little mystery with Gothic trappings, slasher moments and a convoluted plot about on par with most gialli. There's nudity provided by Dionisio, Gemser and Strindberg (in one of her last film appearances) and a few poorly-done gore effects. It opens with a quote from Hieronimus A. Steinback. The music score is good and it's fairly well photographed but there's not enough style present to really overcome the script shortcomings.

Wizard recycled clips from this for their living dead-themed pastiche ZOMBIEGEDDON (1986). In 2011, Raro Video released it on DVD (using the Murder Obsession title).


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