aka Come una crisalide
Director: Luigi Pastore
Cast: Riccardo Serventi Longhi, Federica Carpico, Anna Morosetti
Symphony in Blood Red is an Italian thriller, or “giallo,” inspired by legendary filmmaker and Dawn of the Dead producer Dario Argento. Borrowing from Argento’s 2009 film, appropriately named Giallo, (which centered on a psychotic cab driver who would take photos of his mutilated victims) Symphony tells the story of an unnamed (and never fully revealed) killer with a penchant for videotaping himself and his murders. Unfortunately for Symphony’s director and co-writer, Luigi Pastore, he may have backed the wrong horse as Giallo’s regarded by many critics to be one of Argento’s worst since 2004’s equally panned The Card Player.
Symphony failed to really catch my interest and make me want to stay to the end, but that could be due to my own hang-ups about storyline. Pastore seems to vacillate between a faceless slasher flick in the vein of Friday the 13th and a more intricate love letter to a psychopath, a la Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Movies like Friday succeed in making you root for the silent killer by keeping him ruthless and keeping his victims horny, unsympathetic teens. Not with the horny part, I’m always sympathetic of the lustful. I’m talking about stupid teenagers. No one likes stupid teens, not even other stupid teens. Conversely, films like Henry put you so deeply into the killer’s mind that you can’t help but want him to keep going. In trying to be both, Symphony is neither.
There are a lot of fun little quirks to the film that only made me more frustrated by the lack of fully fleshed out characters. There’s interesting cut scenes of two hand puppets that serve as narrators (I’m a little weird for puppets, there may be a slight obsession with Jim Henson… just saying) who offer the only comprehensible explanation of the killer’s motives. Another glaring mistake I perceived is Pastore’s failure to utilize what could’ve been an intriguing twist: while the killer’s obsessed with filming himself walking around stalking his victims and cutting them into pieces, he’s briefly the focus of a TV reporter’s attention. The juxtaposition of the killer’s need to record himself and the TV host’s interest in recording him too briefly serve as an examination of sensationalized media before being completely wasted.
It should be noted however, that this choice to forego the development of characters and story is what the giallo genre is all about. Giallo films purposefully put plot on the back burner to focus more on artistic and visual aspects of a film. So my own American influenced complaints about what I perceive to be a failure of characterization may not be your own.
In the true, classic giallo style made famous by Argento hits like The Cat o’ Nine Tails, or the giallo/supernatural hybrid Phenomena (starring a young Jennifer Connelly and released in the states as Creepers) Symphony looks fantastic. The colors are vibrant and expertly contrast with clever usage of shadows and lighting. The handmade gore (always a fan) is well done and the kill scenes are given just the right creative flourishes. If you care less about a solid narrative and just want to see a succession of beautiful shots and people getting sliced up to a great selection of classical music, Symphony in Blood Red is the picture for you.