Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: The Girl In Room 2A

Ah, 70’s Italian Horror. We love you for your ridiculous traits as much as the sublime ones. Italian gothic horror had more or less died out by the 70’s, and the zombie and cannibal crazes, while beginning in the late 70’s, wouldn’t hit their strides until the early 80’s. This left giallo films to dominate spaghetti terror in the 70’s. For those unfamiliar with these flicks, they’re a mixture of mystery thriller and slasher flick. They have suspense and intrigue, but also throw in gore and gratuitous nudity. They also have fun titles like Strip Nude For Your Killer, Don’t Torture a Duckling, and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. There are some well-known masterpieces of Giallo, mainly the works of Argento, Fulci, Martino, Bava (both Mario and Lamberto) and Lenzi. Some of the lesser-known examples, however, are just as good and even more off the wall. One giallo flick that I was not aware of until recently that I dug a lot is The Girl in Room 2A.
Poor Margaret just can’t catch a break. First she was falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned. Then, when she gets out, she winds up in a boarding house with a mysterious secret. She has an unexplained recurring bloodstain on her bedroom floor, she keeps having visions of a guy in a red and black Justice League reject costume tormenting her, and it seems that young ladies have been disappearing. The girls who have occupied her room (betcha can’t guess which one it is) certainly haven’t fared very well. They’ve fallen victim to a sadistic cult who believes that they must cleanse these wicked girls of their sins through torture, and now they’ve set their eyes on our ex-con heroine. With the help of her new beau Jack, Margaret sets out to find out the truth bout this sect, while trying not to become their latest sacrifice.
First of all, this flick has all of those ridiculous traits I was talking about. The ones that are present in virtually every movie of this type. You know, all those hallmarks that we all love so much and, to some extent, watch these flicks for. You do love these flicks right? Of course you do. Everybody does. Anyway, it’s got the horrible dubbing that provides some unintentional comedy. It’s got those incredibly melodramatic crash-zooms. Some of these flicks have brilliant scores and some have bizarre, wacky scores. This one falls firmly in the bizarre and wacky category. Some scenes have very suspenseful music that’s actually really good. Then suddenly it will change to porn-esque music or some upbeat Saturday morning cartoon chase sequence music.
What about the nudity and gore you ask? There’s nudity and gore here for you. Was 1970’s Italy some kind of magical land where every single woman was gorgeous? Almost without fail the women in these flicks are beautiful. Plus, I like that this was in the pre-silicone and botox days, so the women look more natural. A few of the ladies in this flick decide to show of those natural bodies. Our main couple also has a love scene featuring the most awesomely awkward kissing I think I’ve ever seen. The violence is there too. It may be a little subdued when compared to something like Suspiria or Twitch of the Death Nerve, but we do get an impalement, a hanging, some hand burning, a sword to the face and neck, and other assorted nastiness in all of its Crayola-red colored bloody glory. We also get some S&M thrown in for good measure, with the cult’s victims being tied up, stripped and whipped. Of course, you’re not the type that would enjoy something like that. You’re above that kind of base cheap thrills. Sure you are.
When it comes to the story, this one gets it right. The actual plot isn’t always a strong point in giallo flicks, but The Girl in Room 2A is solid. For the first two thirds of the movie, it manages to maintain some mystery around the bizarre happenings in the boarding house. It manages to build some decent tension too. Once the big reveal is made, it keeps the pace brisk enough to drive the narrative along without sacrificing a satisfying ending. While it is a fairly outlandish premise, this flick, as opposed to a lot of giallo flicks, makes sense. It avoids a lot of the silliness often involved in the genre. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. The main torturer looks about as silly as they come. I guess he could be menacing in the right context, but I laughed my ass off whenever I saw him. He looks like a comic book character. Actually, trade his black and red pajamas for a tux and he’d look exactly like The Red Hood from Batman.

Mondo Macabro, who will always have a special place in my heart for releasing Aludarda, put this one out. As usual, they did a hell of a job on the DVD. The transfer looks great, being crisp and clean while still maintaining that “40 year old film patina” charm. As far as special features go, we get a video interview with star Daniela Giordano, the US theatrical trailer, a pretty extensive written history of the film, and previews for other Mondo Macabro releases. To me special features are like money or chocolate, there’s no such thing as enough, but this is a very nice package. It’s available from their website (http://www.mondomacabrodvd.com/).
I was surprised to find out that while the flick was made in Italy, the director was American. That’s right, William Rose was from New York. That caught me off guard because he had the Giallo formula and the atmosphere of Italian horror down pat. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I’m honestly dumbfounded that I’d never heard of it before now. If you don’t dig Giallo, or Italian horror in general, The Girl in Room 2A isn’t going to change your mind. If, like me, you love everything about the “yellow flicks” (look it up if you don’t know), then this one will surely satisfy. Two severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.

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