Saturday, July 31, 2021

Vampire Kids (1991)

After a disastrous shipwreck, a sailing group wash up on the shores of a deserted island. While empty now, they find evidence of a Japanese military outpost, as well as a shrine to its commander that seems to affect their minds. Between possession, greediness over discovered jewels, and general clumsiness, the group soon have to contend with a new threat-Vampires...

Vampire Kids gets off to an immediate start. Setup? Bah, that just wastes time that could be devoted to comedy antics, and spooky shenanigans! Of course, it would've been nice if we'd actually been properly introduced to these characters before they were shipwrecked, but oh well. At least the film does a decent job of introducing everyone, despite these hurried conditions.

Despite such a rushed prologue, the movie takes a steady pace, revealing things piece by piece. This is good in some ways, but not others. Namely, where are the Vampire Kids? They're only the ones the movie's named after! It's all well and good to introduce things gradually, but when the titular characters don't show up till almost halfway through, that's a problem.

Once they do show up though they appear consistently, and are never far from the action for long. We get a few comic moments of them trying to suck the group's blood, to appease their master, as well as a few tricks to get around this when the humans prove to be tougher than expected. The true villain is an undead Japanese soldier, and he's as mean as the kids are cute, providing a decent opponent.

The human characters are a pretty loathsome bunch. A gaggle of rude greedy perverts, The fact that this is intentionally so does go a bit way to remedying this, but it sometimes gets annoying to watch, especially as this isn't a horror film with a bodycount I am glad in a way that none of them die though, because that'd take this movie to a more serious place than it should be.

The guys are a mix of nerdy, sporty, and dumb. Something I liked was that the female characters were a pretty varied bunch, and just as flawed and kooky as the guys.

Vampire Kids does very little explaining. Aside from the lack of introductions, there's never really an explanation of who this vampire is, where he got these vampire kids from, who their guardian at the end is, etc. These are all little things that can be overlooked. What is unforgiveable though is the ending! I get that Chinese moviegoers hated big conclusions with a passion, but could we at least have gotten one last look in at least with the heroes, one last joke, or an explanation for how they eventually get off the island? Anything, please!

The comedy here is mixed. There are a lot of your obvious jokes that can be seen coming a mile away. There's a lot of lowbrow comedy, and fixations on breasts (Boy is that girl busty!). The film also verges on the gross and occasionally bizarre! Even by Hong Kong standards Vampire Kids is a weird movie, with the shower scene being proof positive. There's also a prolonged magical spanking scene.

I've seen the movie in both Cantonese and Mandarin versions, both with the typical Chinese comedy translation-Overuse of words like Bastard or Shit, very verbose "I must strangle you!", as well as hilarious lines like "As she super big breasts, so she needs more oxygen.", "Maybe can light it", "I suffer from belly", "Do you know you're stink", and "It's saying, human is afraid ghost, but ghost is more afraid human".

Something I thought Vampire Kids handles fairly well, funnily enough, is the atmosphere. No, this is hardly the spookiest movie out there, but it   pretty nicely. The jokes don't spoil the tense mood too much during such moments, and overall the film is a decent example of a horror-comedy, balancing the genres well.

The cast are alright, albeit do too good a job at being annoying sometimes. Notable actors include Billy Lau and Sandra Ng, reliable (if occasionally grating) mainstays of Chinese cinema.

The music is suitably spooky, with a few good tracks that build the mood up.

The effects here are quite good. The movie doesn't have a big enough budget for anything super flash, but what it has looks good, from some reliable vampire make-up, and some decent pyrotechnics.

The scenery in Vampire Kids is neat! Whether really shot on a deserted island, or some random spot off the coast of Hong Kong, it's a great setting, and looks convincing. The lush beach, the overgrown greenery, and the abandoned outpost all look neat. The film really makes me want to go there on a holiday! Of course I'd prefer to have a boat back to the mainland, and some garlic and holy water in-case of vampires, but that's what you get for a good destination.

Vampire Kids is one of the lesser examples of HK comedy, but also one of the stranger ones. It's got enough cheesiness and humour, deliberate and unintentional, to amuse fans of this kind of thing. If you're new to the genre there's much better stuff you could watch, but this isn't the worst thing you could stumble across...

The Child (1977)

Alicianne is a young nanny, returning to her sleepy hometown up in the forests of California. She is to take care of little Rosalie Nordon, and soon hears about what a...unique girl she is. The family has few fans in the region, and the father doesn't make a good first impression. Rosalie herself likes her new nanny, but is fiercely jealous of not getting her full attention, and when the horrible truth about what she gets up to comes to light, no-one will be safe from her mysterious friends...

The Child is an interesting if flawed movie. A horror from the 70s, it was created by two film students, Robert Voskanian and Dadashian. The only film to their name, they make it count with an offbeat and somewhat unique film. The story is pretty basic stuff, but its presentation is comparable to some of the more unique entries of the decade.

Getting to the flaws first, The Child is a bit boring in places. Slow, dull, and the story isn't that interesting. Some parts are, but they don't get as much focus as I'd have liked. The whole presentation is a bit wonky too, from the acting, to the dubbing, and it all feels a bit clunky.

Alicianne is an alright lead character, though with a few negatives. She always talks with Rosalie in a very judgemental and disapproving tone. Sure, she's probably right about her suspicions, but you need to handle these things delicately! Make a friend of the girl, not an enemy! Also not helping is her doing things like snooping through Rosalie's room and belongings.

Rosalie is a great villain. She's devious, friendly in a morbid way (which is unfortunately un-reciprocated by all these fuddy-duddies!). Blessed with mysterious powers, she puts them to work, not only gaining telepathic revenge against her mother's killer's, but also enlisting the help of the living dead (who she may or may not have raised herself).

Mr. Nordon is an aggressive patriarch, never showing much kindness to his daughter, and earning her contempt as a result. Although given her father's brusque and morbid manners, not to mention his own murderous past, it seems he may have had more influence on Rosalie than she likes to admit.

His son and Rosalie's brother is Len, who's an incredibly average guy. So much so it's hard to believe he's a part of this family! His father is an uncouth asshole, his mother was a possibly insane medium, and his sister is a telepathic killer and friend to all zombies! Poor boy doesn't stand a chance. I wish he'd had more of a relationship with Rosalie, or been made to be a farmhand or something, rather than actual relation.

There were a few plot points I didn't get though, like what Rosalie's beef is with her neighbour. The old lady is just about the only one in this town not in on this conspiracy with Mr. Nordon to kill his wife, and openly condemns them for it. That's probably how Rosalie even suspects! So why kill her? Because her dog was too loud? Deal with it, girl, and leave her alone!

Where the movie gets most unique is when it suddenly becomes a borderline zombie apocalypse film in the last act! In a very localised way, of course, but it's very effective to see how this dry dusty town becomes a wasteland, with barren stretches of scenery, and oil wells whirring away.

When you get over the surprise, and the complete lack of our main villain, The Child has a pretty decent climax at first. Though one wonders why they don't just run away. Yeah there are zombies about, but it's still broad daylight. Better than holing yourself up in a dingy shack. It's here where the movie becomes interminable, before reaching a pretty abrupt conclusion.

Like I said, for all its problems, The Child bears a unique tone only a few other movies of the time had.
to compare it with two movies-Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (also known by a half dozen other titles) and Messiah of Evil. All three films share an umistakeable tone. All from the same decade, they are eerie and almost surreal portraits of small town Americana gone berserk in some way. While not all of these movies are good (only Messiah of Evil made the grade for me) they are special in their own way, and possess great 1930s American Gothic styles, which is enough to make them interesting.

The effects here are cheap and occasionally goofy, but fairly bloody. Some of the deaths are pulled off surprisingly well! The make-up for the zombies is good, with a neat visual. They're not shown full on much, which is for the best. Not only because it hides any possible imperfections, but also makes them creepier when you never get a clear look at one.

The performances in The Child are mixed. A lot of the cast are inexperienced, this being the first (and for some only) film in their careers. Add to this the off-kilter dubbing and you've got a pretty bizarre sounding film, with an almost unnatural quality, not to mention amusing. The most impressive performance came from little Rosalie Cole. Not every line is delivered perfectly, but she has a great screen presence! Props must go to the cast for all their help with the production. Good on them! This is how low budget films get made!

The direction here is one of the highlights. For a first time director, Voskanian has a real eye for framing. The ending shot is fantastic too, and is perfect to conclude on. The set design and location scouting is all really good too! The film looks appropriate for the period it's set in (even if a few objects may look more modern). The clothes, photos, and especially cars all look neat.

Overall, The Child isn't very good, but the parts are greater than the whole, and to me this is the kind of 'bad' movie where I can still hold massive respect for the creative team behind it. A bunch of students on their first film and this unique product is what they come up with. It may have been boring for most of the time, but good on them for trying...

Friday, July 30, 2021

Sleepless (2001)

A prostitute is terrified when she discovers her latest client is seemingly a murderer. She flees with some evidence, but is soon tracked down and killed. The police find a link to the old 'dwarf murderer' of the 1980s, and call in retired Detective Ulisse Moretti. Also dragged into events is the young Giacomo, whose mother fell victim to this same murderer. The only problem is, he's dead. But if the dwarf murderer has been dead for 20 years, was he ever the killer? Who is committing these deeds now?...

Sleepless feels like a last gasp of quality filmmaking from Dario Argento. It's not up to the standard of his classics, but nor is it as abominably bad as his other recent films. It's not perfect, by any means, and is loaded with questionable moments, but it feels like the work of a master, even if it's coming from an off day.

The film begins with an arresting, if slightly overlong, stalk and kill sequence. It takes up the whole first 20 minutes! It sounds crazy, and isn't entirely successful, but it's also never boring. Beyond this the film settles into a more reasonable pacing, moving relatively quickly, and introducing its main characters well.

The whole catalyst for the first murder is pretty wacky. He wanted to sleep with a prostitute, but she kicks up a stink. So he pays her and bids her goodnight as he goes to bed, and instead of calmly leaving, she instead becomes hysterical just because he dared to snore, and runs out so fast she knocks over furniture and gets broken glass everywhere! Geez, lady, try not to trash his house! Sure, she uncovers a fierce collection of knives, but those could just be antiques!...They're not, he chops her to pieces with them, but still.

This leads to an extended chase through a train, leading to her demise. After her death you think this segment is finally going to end, but then her friend shows up, and it keeps going! She immediately notices something scary is going on, and finds the killer's file, then runs away from the station. They can call the police you know, and they will come! Then like an idiot she drops the file! Your friend died for that, you dumbass! What follows for her is clear to see...

The first act has a more industrial feel to it, with its midnight train stations and seedy prostitutes, then the rest of the film has more of a small-town Italiana vibe. The genre also switches to an extent, becoming more of a police procedural. But never losing base with its horror roots. The film is at times needlessly elaborate, but that's par for the course for a giallo. These killers seem to relish in difficult murders, so I am not complaining.

The story is fairly decent, with a few nice twists and turns. It gets a bit like a soap opera at times, but in a good way. The movie is a little overlong, but never overstays its welcome, and reaches a pretty good climax. Hilarious in all the wrong ways, but also engaging enough in its own right. The ending itself is pretty abrupt though, and has a weird stylistic choice for the credits.

Sleepless has plenty of Argento touches, from locations (like a rainy train station) to thematic, such as a voyeuristic killer, and a mystery involving nursery rhymes, and memory. Even though the gore effects themselves look more modern, the blood itself is just as bright red as it was in his glory days. The film stock looks like it could have been from the 80s too, which is a great look. At times the movie runs the risk of copying his past, like the missing car keys of Tenebrae, but it mostly manages to be its own thing.

The characters are fairly decent. Moretti is a good protagonist. Elderly for sure, and having a bit of trouble with his memory, but still maintaining a fierce sense of justice and fair play. He never lets his age and ill health get in his way, and he is determined to catch this killer and finally put an end to this old case.

Moretti often finds himself bearing the brunt of remarks of his age, sometimes jesting, other times mocking. The film has an undercurrent of old and new...but Moretti retired less than 17 years ago! He would've been a cop well into the 80s, if not the 90s! There's even a comment from an officer about how they didn't keep files back then. Back when, 1983? It's not the bloody stone age!

Giacomo is a likeable enough dude. Young and good looking, he's the audience surrogate, and becomes the main protagonist after a certain point. He has a decent relationship with his love interest, though I kept thinking "Steady on mate, you have a girlfriend, remember? The hot Chinese girl?".

I guessed who the killer was immediately, by the sound of his voice, which is like no-one else in the film (or any other for that matter). It also doesn't help that none of the other suspects are ever given potential motives, so there's never any reason to suspect them, beyond the red herrings. Aside from that though, the suspects are alright, and the clues leading to the true identity are handled well, even if I knew who he was the whole time.

The victims are pretty random, but we do get enough time with each of 'em to form at least a little of a connection. Nothing major, but at least they're not walk-on extras with no dialogue or anything. It is a shame the ballerina died, since she was cute!

They have weird reactions at times, like how petrified one girl is after a fuse box cuts out. I know something's wrong because there's a killer about, but she doesn't! Do people normally go into hysterics when a fuse box goes haywire?

I felt bad for poor Vincenzo. He was only an innocent Giallo novelist, not letting his disability control or ruin his life, and he has enough of a sense of honour to curse children who mocked him, while also rewarding those he liked by reading sneak previews of his latest books (until some pesky parents put a stop to it). Thankfully his memory is finally rehabilitated, even if it took a couple decades.

There are many moments that made me laugh, like the heroes genuinely thinking the killer called the police on himself, one character shooting himself in head twice, etc. Another weird touch is the indestructible mannequin. It's just a dummy, shooting it will knock it down, ya know.

Occasionally the movie even attempts to be funny on purpose. This is with mixed success, but I did at least like what it was going for, and it got more of a chuckle out of me than any other humour from Argento (it's really not his forte!).

The death scenes in Sleepless can get pretty gnarly, in some creative ways. Although at times they verge on the ridiculous and occasionally hilarious. One that towed the line on both was the head smashing, where a couple of bumps turns the woman's face to pudding. The decapitation is also hilarious, thanks to the poor stock sound effect, the ludicrous ease in which the killer does it (holds her by the throat, cuts twice with a knife, and there goes her noggin!), and the goofy fake head. The direction in the scene annoyed me too. The camera is pointing too far down! I get the point is we only see their feet, but we see so little it actually detracts from the scene. We can't even see where we're going

The effects are really good, for the most part. The blood has that classical feel, and the practical gore effects look as good as they do nauseating (to some, anyway). Where they faltered a little for me was in their lack of subtlety. We see everything, and while that does make the deaths more visceral, it also has less of an impact in a way. Being able to see everything isn't necessarily the best.

The acting is a real mixed bag. Max von Sydow delivers a lovely performance as Moretti. Stefano Dionisi is a good sidekick, and a few of the other cast members do well. Many others are less than stellar. Some of this might solely be the fault of the dubbing, but others not so much. Roberto Zibetti's performance was so bad and bizarre it had me pissing myself laughing, especially at the end.

The score is decent. Nothing like Goblin's past, but they do an alright job, and as far as 2000s era scores go it's not bland or terrible.

Overall, Sleepless represents Dario Argento's skills at both ends of the pool. It showcases a lot of what he did right, but also many of the laws inherent to his later movies. If you just want a casual Italian horror to watch, give this a go, and fans of Argento should check it out, but if you want to watch something great, there's much more you could watch instead...

The Phantom of the Opera (1998)

Dario Argento's career in horror reached its crescendo/peak in the 70s and 80s, and from then on things went into a downward spiral that shocked everyone, from his passionate fanbase, to even those who never liked him in the first place ("I mean, I've never cared for his movies myself, but what the hell happened?!" I can imagine them saying). One of the lowest moments was definitely his 1998 adaption of Phantom of the Opera...

Talented but unappreciated opera singer Christine Daae finds herself admired by the mysterious Phantom, a ghostly figure who butchers any who dare intrude in his domain, or prevent his wishes. He wants to make Christine a star, and for her to join him forever in his secluded world of darkness...

Argento's Phantom of the Opera is a film that has to be seen to be believed. It is so spectacularly bad that it's baffling! It's not just one thing either, but a whole slew of problems.

The movie gets off to a very abrupt start, like we're already partway though the story. Elements like a telepathic connection between Christine and the Phantom only serve to make this more confusing, as we suddenly hear a character's inner monologue have a conversation with someone else, before we even know who's who.

As an adaption this is bizarre. Some things are reasonably faithful, some are more superficial, while the film contains some wild diversions. For example, here the Phantom never wears a mask, isn't deformed, and was raised by rats. I think it is good to see someone take a risk, and do things a little differently. The important thing is to not be too different, and to keep the tone of the original. This captures the atmosphere perfectly, with the opera house being a living breathing organism. But its lack of loyalty in other areas are annoying, and the gore is a little out of keeping with the book.

Where the film gets even weirder is the new additions. Everything involving the rats is strange, namely one almost icky scene. There's one bit where the Phantom randomly hallucinates a bunch of rat-headed naked men caught in a mousetrap, with zero explanation, foreshadowing, or context. The whole sequence of Raoul and his bro at a brothel is not only weird, but disgusting! We see lots of obese people in states of complete undress, as well as a sense of grossness.

A complete lack of subtlety is one of the biggest problems with the film, and also what makes it so darn funny! The best example being when the rat catcher jumps onto the stage mid-performance and screams "CHRISTINE DAAE IS THE PHANTOM'S WHORE!!!!"

Onto the characters. I don't have a problem with this story starting in media res, as it's exactly what the book does. The Phantom has long been a regular haunter of the opera, and Christine already works at the opera and has communicated with him for a while. My problem here is that even by those standards, things happen far too quickly, with nowhere near enough context. It's like the writer just assumed we'd all know enough to not care about proper introductions.

The Phantom's character feels at odds with the atrocities he commits. For example, his selfless actions in the end are as faithful to the book's Phantom as anything else I've seen. You know what isn't faithful though? The Phantom chopping people in half and eating their tongues!

Christine is likeable in some places, in a classically milquetoast sort of way. She also acts schizo in some scenes, like when she laughs to herself for no reason, then randomly growls to some coworkers backstage. Where this culminates is her relationship with the Phantom. She loves him from the get-go, even banging him. Yet later on she suddenly hates him for no reason, yelling and screaming at him. Until about 20 minutes later of course, when suddenly she's all over him.

Her relationship with Raoul takes quite a backseat. They only share a few scenes, and how she feels is unclear. I feel bad for the poor guy. Here he is in love with a nice girl, who seems to like him back, but she then readily jumps the bones of a psychotic madman, then wails with a broken heart when he dies. Your boyfriend is right there honey, maybe not cry that much for another man!

The others at the opera house get a little to do, but not much, and don't often feel as fleshed out as their book counterparts. Carlotta is annoying, and her being an obese middle-aged lady is a weird addition. I liked the little ballet girl. The poor kid just can't catch a break! Harassed and chased by a perverted opera manager, then witnesses his brutal murder by the Phantom, then when she runs back to safety, her instructor doesn't believe her and hits her for telling lies! That was a bummer. I was hoping the Phantom would kill him, and that we'd see the girl get some kind of victory or success later on.

The next important character to discuss is the Rat Catcher. Surprisingly, this grotty asshole, who looks like he's taken a bath in a septic tank, is a main character! There are several moments where you think surely he's gonna die. But he makes it to the very end of the film! This is frustrating, since he is by far the most annoying person in the film, and you'll want him to die in every scene he's in.

Phantom of the Opera is a gorgeous film in some scenes, due to filming taking place in a real opera house. The sets for the caves look neat, as does the Phantom's famous catacomb. There's great lighting too. For all this movie's numerous faults, it's clear the director still had a great visual flare.

The gore effects are neat too! Wasted on a film as bad as this, but Sergio Stivaletti is always a reliable effects artist. We get numerous deaths, and while the accompanying sound design doesn't go well (it sounds like video game hack and slashing), they are otherwise very satisfying. They also made me just about die laughing too, with how over the top they can get.

The CG is less than stellar though. It's really awful in places, and even spoils otherwise good locations, with the green screen making things look like a video game.

The acting is mixed. Julian Sands is appropriately fancy in the way he speaks, and delivers some lines well, but falls victim to hilarious overacting. I felt bad for him being in this movie. He might've thought it could be a big new break, and it could've killed his career then and there! Asia Argento is her usual self. A lot of the character's erratic behaviour is down to her. She does ok for the most part, but less in others.

Istvan Bubik delivers a stunningly awful performance as the Rat Catcher. He seems to be doing his best imitation of Bela Lugosi, and props to him it's a good one! Though spoilt by the poor direction, and the character's constant gross actions. The remainder of the actors are tolerable at best, though many overdo it. The English dubbing is responsible in some ways, but not others.

Phantom of the Opera is a bad film, make no mistake, but it's also a hilarious watch. It will make you despair for Dario Argento's career, but make you laugh heartily while doing so. And frankly that's better than some of his later bad movies do...

The Black Cat (1989)

Anne Ravenna is an actress married to an ambitious director, who is plotting his next feature-A horror movie about the with Levana. Anne immediately begins having terrible nightmares, which get increasingly lifelike. She soon realises that Levana is very real, and is an age old evil that will be given physical form if this movie is completed...

There are certainly many treasures of Italian horror still hidden, but with God as my witness I did not know there was an unofficial third entry in the Three Mothers trilogy! Perhaps the fact that The Black Cat is such a common horror title, even in Italian cinema. Lucio Fulci made his own 'adaption' (and I do use that word loosely) of the famous Poe story, and I've seen that. Maybe I just got his film conflated with the other, so always passed it by. Not helping matters is its alternate title, Demons 6!

The Black Cat is an interesting and somewhat unique horror film. Whether it's any good is another thing, but I certainly don't fault it for ambition, nor for scope. It shows everything crazy that it sets up. Which is why we end up with several shots of floating fetuses in space. Like I said, this is an out there movie!

The Black Cat serves as an unofficial finale to the Three Mothers trilogy. It doesn't actually share a connection with Suspiria or Inferno, but hey, it's not like we'd get a real third entry for a while yet. The movie goes for a meta approach, where Marc and his buddy are keen to make the third entry in the series.

They talk about the source material, Levana and our Ladies of Sorrow, written by Charles Baudelaire (?). Marc says it's a goldmine of material, and they could get loads of films out of it. But then he turns right around and say two of the three Mothers have already been adapted, so there's no sense going back to them. Ok, first of all, the essay of Levana is only like 2 pages long. It's not a treasure trove of material. Secondly, contradictory much? I guess this one remaining mother must have a lot of applications!

Partway through the film the pair go to visit a witch to get her advice on the script. But when they mention what they're adapting, she expresses shock at how they could have learned about this. Um, maybe because it's a widely published book? With two previous movies? She constantly refer to it as a translation of earlier texts, and an arcane tome of witchcraft and evil. It's really not, it's a book of essays and poetry. This scene does address the movie's erroneous belief that Charles Baudelaire wrote Levana, but in a way that just had me scratching my head even more!

Considering the original text of the Three Mothers is not a horror story, nor are they evil in it, referring back to it really is the dumbest thing any adaption could do. I can suspend my disbelief enough to accept that a character named Mater Suspiriorum is evil, but when you actually bring up the text that says she's not, I draw the line.

You wanna know what my biggest complaint with the film is though? The Black Cat is a meta title, as it's also the name of the film Anne is the beginning. That's it! It's completely unrelated to the Levana film that dominates the picture, and never comes up, aside from a single conversation mentioning it (coming to the conclusion that black cats equal witches, therefore connected!).

Moving beyond all the bizarre touches and meta commentary The Black Cat offers and getting into the scares, how does it deliver? It's pretty good. Over-the-top for sure, but it gives us some good spooky setpieces.

The Black Cat also contains the biggest fake-out dream sequence imaginable! I was actually surprised at the movie for going through with what happens, until I realised "Wait, both Anne's husband AND herself are now dead...and there's still 33 minutes left! What gives?", and I groaned as I realised what was coming. And sure enough, it was all a dream!

As the movie goes on, the plot just gets looser and more nonsensical, all building up to a wacky reveal. It turns out this supernatural horror film is actually a science fiction, and Levana is the next stage in human evolution...but so is Anne, her only potential rival. The Black Cat starts out as an Italian horror, then turns into The X-Men! We get a big 'magical' confrontation, and then an amusingly happy ending that wraps not only the story but the whole earth in a nice neat bow. The film ends with your typical 'Is the evil really gone?' style ending, like any given Nightmare on Elm Street Film. And like with those, it makes no sense, and kinda spoils the triumph a little.

The gore effects in The Black Cat are fun, with some gooey deaths that verge on the ridiculous, but no less entertaining. It looks good too! They didn't skimp here. This production clearly had quite a bit of money behind it. Which makes it all the more baffling that no-one's ever heard of it!

The visuals I'm not so fond of. The 80s was a great decade with lots of great looks but that's not to say I liked all of it, especially the tail end. The Black Cat felt 80s-ish in an unappealing way. The colours felt garish, the fashion was terrible, and the whole attitude felt overly glossy.

Overall, the movie has a very fake feel to it. This might have been intentional, given the whole meta angle of cinema, but I'm still not sure it's a good thing when a spooky ethereal graveyard, for example, is quite obviously a set. It's an artificiality I didn't like. One neat thing to note is a Blood and Black Lace reference at the beginning!

The score is all good, and varied. There's ominous fantasy music, sinister music box melodies, and your typical jump scare tracks, which verge on the cheap! Also present is a rockin' 80s metal soundtrack! Not my favourite of tunes, but they're ok I guess, and they can't ruin the mood any more than everything else already has.

The acting is alright. Florence Guerin is a decent lead, although has moments of hilarious overacting (such as the baffling "LEONARDDDDDD!" moment), and her performance turns weirdly unnatural at the end. Urbano Barberini is decent enough, even if he doesn't get as much fun as in other movies. Caroline Munro is sexy and fun in her role, while the actress playing Levana is amusingly evil. Brett Halsey delivers an intensely agreeable performance as miserly film producer Leonard. Karina Huff is only 30 or so, yet looks strangely made-up, like she'd meant to be an old crone. Instead she looks like she's jaundiced or something. Does a decent job anyway. And lastly, young Giada Cozzi does a nice job. The dub is a little unnatural, but she's cute, and looks ethereal.

The Black Cat is one of the stranger examples of Italian horror, and I recommend checking it out for fans. You might not enjoy it as much as other films of its type, but I think it's at least worth checking out, flaws and all...