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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Crystal Eyes

My notes on Mirada de cristal (Crystal Eyes).

An Argentine giallo pastiche from the writer/director team of Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, this obviously pays homage to genre tentpole classics — a few murders are modelled on those in Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (which also had a cynically-observed high fashion mileu) and elements of art direction often evokes Dario Argento’s Suspiria (including that particularly vile shade of pink paint).  There’s even an emphasis on beauty and disfigurement that evokes high art horrors Peeping Tom and Eyes Without a Face and low-rent trash like The Hypnotic Eye and Faceless.  However, the 1980s setting and defiantly trashy vibe make this more in the spirit of such late-in-the-day efforts as Michele Soavi’s Stagefright, Lucio Fulci’s Murderock and Lamberto Bava’s Delirium – there’s a disco beat to the score, shrilly nasty characters (even the putative heroine is an awful person), and a plot built around a clash of divas and dependents that might also distantly channel the mock melodramas of Pedro Almodovar).

In Buenos Aires, 1984, blonde supermodel Alexis Carpenter (Camila Pizzo) is at the top of her profession but hated by everyone she’s ever met … after tossing scalding coffee in the face of impertinent makeup girl Barbara (Valeria Giorcelli), the coked-up trash queen struts along a runway behind a chainlink fence in a back-alley chic show and melts down, pouring champagne onto the electric works and going up in flames.  A year later, models Eva Lantier (Anahi Politi) and Irene del Lago (Erika Boveri) are competing to take Alexis’s spot as a cover girl for Attila magazine, edited by dragon queen Lucia L’uccello (Silvia Montanari) … and a killer in a black mac and a white mask starts slaughtering everyone involved, often striking poses to pass as a mannequin while laying in wait.  The first half of the film seemingly stalks and offs the whole supporting cast – including Alexis’s brothers Hernan (Nacho Joshas) and Matias (Diego Benedetto) and Lucia’s twin ‘assistants’ Nadia (Ausgistina del Rosal) and Nidia (Victoria del Rosal) – and then the location switches to a Stagefright-like old dark theatre where the remaining major players (and prime suspects) are menaced on a supposed photoshoot.

It’s hard to parody or outdo the gory excesses of the genre this is riffing on, and some of the killings here risk seeming almost tame, despite stabbings with glass shards and shrines surmounted with severed heads … but there’s one bit with a crystal bird ornament that literally skewers Dario Argento the way High Anxiety does Alfred Hitchcock.  So, who’s under the mask?  Is Barbara, who usually hides her scars under a floppy fringe and remains maniacally perky in disfigurement, out to strike back at the stupid glamour girls who take her for granted?  Is there a loophole in what we think we’ve seen that allows Alexis – or any of the other dead characters – to stalk again?  The solution is pleasantly intricate, and very much in the champ, twisted ethos of gialli from the decadent we’ve-done-all-the-obvious-twists-so-let’s-get-inventive phase of the genre.  Having got through at least three archetypal mini-plots, this tags on a hospital coda – in the spirit  of Dressed to Kill? – that might set up a sequel, or might just be another spirited joke.

 

Here’s the FrightFest listing.

Here’s a trailer.

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