7. Buio omega (Dir. Joe D’Amato, 1979)
Alternate Titles: The Final Darkness, Beyond the Darkness, Buried Alive, Dark Holocaust, Blue Omega
Beyond the Darkness contains one of the strangest plots on this list. Frank Wyler (Kieran Canter) is a taxidermist who preserves his fiancé, Anna (Cinzia Monreale). Frank invites a series of endless women (including Anna’s twin sister) to admire his work, but none are too happy to see his project. There isn’t much to say about the film other than it is completely bonkers. It was also banned in many countries due to its controversial subject matter.
6. Anthropophagus (Dir. Joe D’Amato, 1980)
Alternate Titles: Anthropophagus: The Beast, Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, Zombie 7: Grim Reaper, Man Beast, The Savage Island, The Zombie’s Rage
A group of travelers visits a remote Greek island where, unbeknownst to them, all the inhabitants have been killed by a menacing creature (George Eastman, who wrote the screenplay). D’Amato sustains a suspenseful tone for the entire runtime, even when some of the scenes prove to be a little too controversial for some viewers’ tastes. The film also stars Tisa Farrow, Mia Farrow’s sister (Tisa had quite the career in Italian exploitation).
5. Rosso Sangue (Dir. Joe D’Amato, 1981)
Alternate Titles: Absurd, Anthropophagus 2, Zombie 6: Monster Hunter, Horrible, The Grim Reaper 2
D’Amato’s “sequel” of sorts to Anthropophagus (though the film was never officially recognized as such) follows the killing spree of Mikos (George Eastman, who also wrote the screenplay), a Greek super mensch whose invincibility lays waste to nurses, motorcyclists, and babysitters. Absurd bears very few similarities to Anthropophagus, and is slightly more enjoyable (due primarily to its slasher film qualities, which seem to be borrowed from Halloween).
4. Terminator II (Dir. Bruno Mattei, 1990)
Alternate Titles: Terminator II: Shocking Dark, Alienators, Contaminator, Aliens 2, Shocking Dark
In an undisclosed time, Venice is an uninhabitable wasteland of pollution. A team of commandoes, including Sara (Haven Tyler) and Samuel Fuller (Christopher Ahrens, and yes his character’s name is Samuel Fuller), try to recover a research diary from a lab, only to be attacked by strange mutants. If you thought that Terminator II would bear similarities to Terminator, think again! It is more akin to Aliens (another James Cameron film), and became the subject of many licensing issues that prevented it from screening in the states (although, according to IMDB, the film played at Cannes…go figure).
3. Apocalypse domani (Dir. Antonio Margheriti, 1980)
Alternate Titles: Cannibal Apocalypse, Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, Cannibal Massacre, Cannibals in the City, Savage Apocalypse, Savage Slaughters, Cannibals in the Streets
Vietnam vet Norman Hopper (John Saxon) not only endures a series of haunting flashbacks, but also contracts a virus that turns him into a flesh-eater. He and another POW, Charlie Bukowski (Giovanni Lombardo Radice under the name John Morghen), create a mob of flesh-eaters that rampage throughout the city. Not only does Margheriti’s film feature cannibalism and partially zombified people, but it also boasts instances of pedophilia (one of the neighbor girls tries endlessly to seduce Norman, thus contracting the virus during a moment of lust). Saxon would lose interest in the project once he realized it was an Italian exploitation film, and would subsequently disown the film.
2. La morte accarezza a mezzanotte (Dir. Luciano Ercoli, 1972)
Alternate Title: Death Walks at Midnight, Cry out in Terror, Death Caresses at Midnight
Valentina (Susan Scott) takes a substance in order help her boyfriend, Gio (Simon Andreu), research the effects of the drug. During her hallucinations, Valentina sees a man kill a woman with a spiked metal glove, but are these images real or imagined? Death Walks at Midnight suffers from a bloated plot that seems to go nowhere and everywhere all at once. The violence (and the fabulous costuming) is what saves this film from complete obscurity, and the murders prove much more interesting than trying to figure out resolutions to the film’s many fruitless plot points.
1. Cosa avete fatto a Solange? (Dir. Massimo Dallamano, 1972)
Alternate Title: What Have You Done to Solange?, Terror in the Woods, The School That Couldn’t Scream, The Secret of the Green Pins, Who’s Next?
While having an affair with one of his student, Enrico (Fabio Testi) witnesses a murder. Enrico soon becomes embroiled in the killer’s plot, which targets many of the girls that attend Enrico’s school. Dallamano’s film is definitely the best film on the list, utilizing more suspense and mystery than exploitation and gore (though those elements are still present). It’s availability on home media has given it a new lease on life, and the film has been credited as one of the best gialli to come out of Italy’s exploitation period.
Author Bio: Jose Gallegos is an aspiring filmmaker with a B.A. in Film Production/French from USC and an M.A. in Cinema, Media Studies from UCLA. His main interests are the French New Wave, Left Bank Cinema, and Spanish Cinema under Franco. You can read his film reviews at nextprojection.com and view his film poster collections at discreetcharmsandobscureobjects.blogspot.com.