Giallo Fantastique is Dark, Lush, and Irresistable

Cover of Giallo Fantastique One of my favorite film genres is, without a doubt, the giallo. The giants in this area – Argento, Bava, Lucio – provide such an interesting mix of mystery, murder, noir, and always just a touch of something a little more. Usually it’s something twisted or paranormal or just outright frightening. So, when I saw that Word Horde was going to be putting out Giallo Fantastique, a collection of stories in the giallo genre, I was definitely excited!

Ross E. Lockhart has edited directed a collection of twelve stories by some of the best names around. In his introduction he discusses his choice for the title, as well as the use of the color yellow, which he explains became connected to the idea of decadence in the early 19th century. Decadence, weird crime, and fantastic horror weave through each of the stories, and there is something here for everyone.

I found “Minerva” by Michael Kazepis and “In the Flat Light” by Adam Cesare to be the most closely related to the feel of giallo that I am used to seeing on the screen. Twisted murders and protagonists who are faced with nightmare-like circumstances play a part in both of these stories, and leave the reader with a sense that the world has been moved bit by bit out of the norm until it careens disturbingly out of control.

Orrin Grey’s “The Red Church” was also one of my favorites. There is a nice mixture of horror elements in this story. Grey’s protagonist is a reporter on a quest to interview an elusive artist, and several of the stories in this collection involve individuals who are interviewing or writing biographies, a plot device that works well and differently in each situation. I enjoyed seeing how each of the authors using this technique went about creating their story.

Possibly the most original take on the genre was “Hello, Handsome” by Garrett Cook, which introduces us to both an unusual protagonist and killer. I also enjoyed Anya Martin’s “Sensoria”, which brought in a bit of the gothic and used fantasy and suspense to weave a darkly beautiful tale that will haunt me for some time to come.

John Langan’s “The Communion of Saints” works from the point of view of a detective who is plagued with a series of murders by some extremely interesting criminals, a case which ends up taking him somewhere completely unexpected. I loved the various elements that he brought into this story – horror, weird, giallo, mystery – they are all combined and melded together in a really ingenious way.

I don’t want to say too much about these stories and give all the goodness away. I will say that there are also stories that pull in some science fiction, move more into the dusky recesses of the erotic, dip their toes into true-crime, and test the borders of a variety of different genres and worlds. In short, Giallo Fantastique is special, original, and impossible to put down. You’re going to want to curl up on a rainy evening with your glass of bourbon, turn the lights down low, throw something from Goblin on repeat, and just dive right in.

This Final Girl is Different: Part 2 – All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Poster for All the Boys Love Mandy LaneThis post is a continuation of some of my favorite slasher movies from the past few years (see my previous post for my fave), specifically ones where I noticed that a common theme is that the final girl is a little different than the trope has traditionally portrayed her. It can be her skills, wiles, looks, motivation, or a combination of these things, but she is definitely doing more than just running and hiding. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is another movie that fits into this category. I was actually surprised at how much I ended up liking this movie, and the twist on the role of the final girl in this one is a big part of what makes the movie something special.

NOTE: From here on there will be spoilers that could well ruin the movie for you if you are planning to watch it.

So, here are a few things that I really like about this movie:

  • First and foremost, Amber Heard as Mandy Lane. She is completely able to pull off both sides of the character. I found it interesting that many of her facial expressions could be completely misconstrued, which reinforced the misdirection that plays such a huge part in this movie.
  • Mandy is always in white — innocence, purity, etc. — except for one scene in which she encounters a trail of blood left by one of the cattle that Garth had to put down. In that scene, she wears a red top and she bends down to touch the bloody ground. It’s like in this one scene we get a glimpse of the hunter inside.

Amber Heard in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

  • Her behavior throughout the movie is in contrast to that of her peers. She doesn’t drink or do drugs at all until they reach the ranch, and then her participation is minimal and only as required by the situation. This effectively places her as the naive or prude, which we soon find out only applies to some areas of her life.
  • I was struck by Emmet’s character. He and Mandy are clearly friends from the beginning of the movie, but he willingly plays a part that is misconstrued by the others. Even the first incident where he eggs the bully on, daring him to jump off the roof — “Let’s jump to Mandy; see if she can catch us” — is really just a starting point for the final plan. His participation in this event leads to the ultimate sacrifice for a high school boy — his social life is completely ruined, worse even than before. Additionally, Mandy shuns him in public, which had to have been extremely difficult to deal with, since it later becomes clear that they must have been conspiring together in private for quite some time.
  • The killer in the film is exposed early on, and because of the way Mandy’s character has been played up to this point, we at first think that this is a stalker situation — a typical plotline for a slasher. However, the true reveal happens smoothly, quickly, and with elegant misdirection. At first it isn’t clear to us — we are as confused as Chloe as to what has just happened.
  • The ending of the movie is chilling. We see Mandy getting ready to move on. She appraised Garth as soon as she met him, and after determining that she won’t, after all, join Emmet with the planned ending of their game, evaluates the remaining situation with a cold clarity. In Garth she has a trained killer at her disposal, a new tool for a new game that can be played some day down the line. After saving him, she has a pretty good shot at ensnaring him and convincing him to do anything for her, which makes her final warning to Emmet even more relevant — “You should never do anything for me.”

So, in this movie what we see is the final girl completely running the show. She has manipulated Emmet’s desire for her and used him as a tool for a specific and bloody end result. Did she do it for the power? The thrill? Because she likes to see blood? It’s clear that she wasn’t truly in love with Emmet — she considered him weak and disposable, even though he did almost all of the wet work. The fact that we don’t really get any reason for why she did this is disturbing. I also found myself wondering what happened to her parents, who simply mysteriously died when she was young. Was there something in her past that primed her bloodlust? Or, was it simply awakened by that first event at the party? Her motives and actions are unpredictable, and she handles herself with a cold calculation that makes her extremely dangerous.

Far from being a victim, this final girl is actually the monster. The interesting way that this is developed and use of misdirection throughout makes this another good example of how this trope is continuing to morph.