Giallo horror refers to a specific subset of Italian horror films made primarily in the 1970's. The films often revolve around gruesome and elaborate murders with stylish sets and garish colors. The origins of the genre come from Alfred Hitchcock and the yellow(giallo) paperback thrillers popular with readers. In the 1970s these outrageous films exploded with titles like A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, but then declined in the 1980's. While visually stunning they often overlooked character and plot development, and instead spent more time focused on the aesthetic qualities of the film. Today you can still see their influence on John Carpenter, Brian De Palma, and such modern films as Berberian Sound Studio.
Girl Who Knew Too Much: The giallo genre begins here with Mario Bava's atmospheric thriller about a women named Nora who travels to Rome and witnesses a murder. However, no one believes her since there is no body, but soon enough people are murdered and Nora might be the next victim. This was Bava's final black and white film, and it was his 1964 film Blood and Black Lace (on order) that pushed the stylistic boundaries of the genre further with its ostentatious colors and aesthetic choices.
Don't Torture a Duckling: Lucio Fulci started out as a genre director of westerns and crime films, but today he is known for his horror films that include indulgently choreographed deaths and gory special effects. This is the film where Fulci turned his attention to horror films, and the Giallo sub-genre in particular. In this titillating and disturbing giallo a reporter and young woman begin investigating the murder of several children in a remote Italian village.
Bird With the Crystal Plumage: This Giallo film is currently available for free through our streaming film service InstantFlix. Another Italian master of the horror genre is Dario Argento, and while he is mainly known for Suspiria he also created several of the greatest Giallo films including this one, which was also his first film. In Bird With the Crystal Plumage we have the similar plot device of a serial killer with black gloves murdering women, but it's the decor, the camera shots, and overall elaborate mise-en-scene that elevate this genre film. Its often credited with sparking the Giallo boom in the 1970s.
Deep Red: This 1975 Giallo film is often agreed upon as the pinnacle of the sub-genre. For this go around an English pianist is in Rome when he witnesses the murder of a psychic late at night by a figure in a brown leather jacket wearing black leather gloves(a common motif in the sub-genre.) As more people are murdered Argento's roving camera continues to find new and inventive ways to shock audiences, including the some of the most shocking deaths in cinema history.
Also watch Giallo influenced films such as Dressed to Kill and Hitchcock's own Frenzy.
Author: Kyle Knight