Deodato, Argento, Bava, Fulci and Martino. All of these Italian filmmakers are masters of the horror genre, each producing their own unique masterpieces that will forever be significant to the genre and hold a special place in fans’ hearts until the end of time.
While the mastery of the horror genre is an achievement that all of these filmmakers have in common, they each produced delightful films and set themselves apart with their own unique styles, techniques and employments of the formal elements of film.
Because of all of the fantastic, frightening, gory, unique films that these and other Italian filmmakers produced, the horror genre became blessed with the wonderful Italian horror subgenre, one that is beloved and enjoyed and will continue to be.
Deodato, Argento, Bava, Fulci and Martino are five very significant and well-known filmmakers to contribute to the Italian horror subgenre, their names are often the first to come to mind when Italian horror is mentioned.
Below are some of the most significant, memorable and profound films made by the filmmakers mentioned; each of these films is a very special and truly spectacular entry in the well-loved Italian horror subgenre.
10. A Bay of Blood
Bava’s delightful slasher-mystery film centers around the murder of a rich countess who owns valuable property at the bay where her home is located. After her murder, a series of gruesome murders take place in order to pick off everyone who is set to inherit anything from the countess’ estate, it’s a bloody battle for a big inheritance.
For anybody who is a fan of the 1980s slasher film, A Bay of Blood is required viewing. The film brilliantly uses many characteristics that would later be used in the beloved horror subgenre, the slasher movies: The trope of sex-crazed teens being murdered, lots of blood, brutal killings, and the famous I-cam perspective of the killer, A Bay of Blood is clearly a huge influence on the beloved slasher movies that would come years later.
A Bay of Blood uses the trademark slasher movie elements in a varied way—it’s almost like a sampling of all the great techniques that could be used in a horror movie, it gives you a little taste of each one, just enough to whet your appetite without using one for too long—it keeps the movie incredibly fresh, and also offers the viewer a great mystery that has many twists and turns and is quite unpredictable at times.
Another fantastic element of A Bay of Blood is the ending, which is extremely shocking, surprising, almost comedic, it comes out of nowhere and actually renders the viewer breathless—a nice way to end a fantastically suspenseful, bloody ride. Any fans of the slasher movie need to see A Bay of Blood, it gives fans the opportunity to see the beginning of the slasher movie and some of the earliest uses of the techniques that would later be employed in the 1980s and after.
9. The Beyond
Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond is a relentless, chilling and blood-curdling story of a New York woman who moves to Louisiana after inheriting a hotel. Strange things and deadly accidents begin to take place at the hotel, and the woman learns that the hotel is actually one of the seven doorways to hell.
The Beyond stands out in a major way; the biggest reason being that it is completely relentless–it does not give the viewer a break, not even in the ending. Watching The Beyond is like a creepy, never-ending nightmare that you cannot escape from even after the end credits roll (in a good way, of course, as this is the hallmark of a great horror film).
The film is loaded with lots of shocking, brutal, painful deaths and gives the audience enough blood and gore to last a lifetime; when you think you have seen the most bloody, horrifying death in The Beyond, it gives you another one shortly after when you have only partially recovered from the preceding one (i.e. a note to those with arachnophobia- tarantulas have never been more frightening).
When viewers are not being frightened by Fulci’s gruesome deaths and special effects, the film keeps the scary mood and sense of impending doom alive with the creepy characters and an ultra eerie and haunting score that will likely replay in the viewer’s head for days after viewing the film.
This film is very unique not only for its story and the total brutality and gruesome nature of the deaths it depicts, but also in the way that it haunts the viewer for a long time after the credits roll. Any horror fan needs to see The Beyond and allow themselves to get lost in its relentless horrors.
8. Black Sabbath
Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath is a fantastic anthology of three tales of horror. The first story, “Il Telefono” follows a woman named Rosy as she received threatening, ominous phone calls at her home one evening. She believes the calls are from a man from her past who has recently escaped from prison and has a grudge against her and a desire for revenge.
The second story “I Wurdulak,” tells the chilling and suspenseful tale of a family whose father returns home after hunting a brutal criminal in the area; the return is less than happy, as the family is unsure of whether or not the father has transformed into something sinister and deadly.
The final story in Black Sabbath is “La Goccia d’Acqua”, an eerie story of a woman who makes the mistake of stealing a ring from the finger of the corpse of the Countess, a mistake which she regrets very quickly.
Black Sabbath is not just a great Italian horror movie, but a truly wonderful anthology-style horror movie. It is easily one of the greatest. What makes Black Sabbath so effective is that from the moment the film begins, it becomes an entire experience as opposed to just watching a movie.
From the opening credits, the dark, eerie mood of the film is established wonderfully through the use of dramatic, spooky music; the introduction from Boris Karloff that follows then takes the eerie mood we have begun to feel and pushes it past eeriness and into downright spine-tingling fear with his proclamation that “Wurdulaks are found everywhere. Is that one sitting behind you now? You can’t be too careful you know, they look perfectly normal and indeed they are, except they drink the blood of the ones they love the best.”
The three stories that follow the film’s introduction are highly creepy, suspenseful, filled with twists, turns and endings that are highly original; each has its own unique and frightening atmosphere that adds so much to the effectiveness of the story.
The highly detailed, effective atmosphere of each story works especially well for the anthology style; the viewer cannot help but get completely involved in each story given its alluring and chilling atmosphere, this involvement leads the viewer to a slow-burn, terror-filled ride that never lets up, each part of the ride brings you in further and further.
Black Sabbath is a great find for horror fans, and especially fans of the anthology-style horror movie, it is sure to delight and horrify as you feel each hair stand on end for each unique, creepy story that makes up Black Sabbath.
As the second of Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy, Inferno tells the chilling story of Mark, who travels from Rome to Manhattan to be with his sister after she reads a book called “The Three Mothers,” which details three mothers of witchcraft who each live in a different part of the world, and believes that one of the mothers inhabits her apartment building.
Inferno manages to pack the same great punch that Suspiria does, by using some of the same effective techniques as Suspiria, but putting its own unique twist on each one. The music in Inferno is one of the standout elements of the film that really makes it an experience that stands on its own in the Italian horror genre.
Using classical symphony numbers, each scene that features these compositions is lifted to an entirely different level in terms of horror; whenever one of the classic compositions is used, the scene becomes something epic, something enormous that increases the impact to an infinite degree.
Imagine seeing a very brutal murder onscreen, then imagine seeing it with truly epic music—it becomes an even more brutal, even more grisly and even more disturbing murder scene that hits the viewer with a knockout punch, leaving said viewer speechless.
Just like Suspiria, Inferno uses extremely large, overpowering sets that have the same successful effect of making the viewer feel helpless and constantly monitored—pairing this with the epic score and the audience is knocked flat after being tormented with suspense and fright.
Inferno also has some of the most shudder-inducing deaths that can actually make your skin crawl. When you think you’ve seen every gross, painful death in a horror movie, you will be both delightfully and painfully surprised when you see Inferno.
Sergio Martino’s Torso is a suspenseful story about a series of coed murders; to avoid the danger and stress around the campus, a group of female friends take a trip to a villa in the countryside; however, their trip may be cut short when the killer decides to take a trip of his own.
Torso is a complete delight for horror fans; it gives a great story, mystery and tension so thick that it could be cut with a knife. As giallo films typically do, Torso provides an intriguing mystery to ramp up the suspense between the gruesome murders. This is such a great aspect of the film because it is suspenseful for the entire film, it never lets up on the suspense front.
As the film progresses and we get closer to an ending, the suspense increases even more, turning the finale into a sort of nightmarish, white-knuckle game of cat and mouse. There are many moments of isolation in Torso that greatly increase the horror and help to increase your fear; this is amplified greatly by the film’s super suspenseful nature, resulting in a murder being extra horrifying given the viewer’s sympathy for the character.
In terms of an original story, Torso delivers in a big way- not just in the storyline of the film itself, but in the backstory of the killer, and the vignettes that take place between the characters as the main story unfolds. Any horror fan that takes absolute delight in an extremely suspenseful horror movie will surely love Torso.