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Saturday, June 29, 2019

NIGHT KILLER -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

Italian director Claudio Fragasso, who gave us such films as TROLL 2 and ZOMBIE 4, decided that his final genre film before moving on to more respectable "auteur" projects would be a Bergman-like psychological thriller called NIGHT KILLER (Severin Films, 1988), about a traumatized woman kidnapped by a mystery man who's obsessed with her and who may or may not be the crazed serial killer who caused her to lose her mind.

The producers took one look at Fragasso's heated tale of twisted love and obsession and handed it over to Fragasso's fellow Italian horror filmmaker Bruno Mattei (VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON, ZOMBIE 3, ROBOWAR, SHOCKING DARK), who shot new scenes of graphic gore--such as the fright-masked killer plunging his razor-sharp claw-glove all the way through his screaming victims' bodies--and renamed it TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3.

The two styles would seem to be at cross purposes, yet Mattei's stalker-slasher scenes occur mainly in the early part of the film and, in my opinion, actually make Fragasso's thriller much more interesting while raising the stakes for poor Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman, THE CANNONBALL RUN, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT) when she gets terrorized by the killer in her house during one of the film's most suspenseful scenes.

She survives, but her memory is gone and she no longer recognizes her daughter Clarissa (Tova Sardot) or her friends Sherman (Richard Foster) and his wife who are caring for Clarissa while Melanie's in the hospital. 

As soon as she's released, however, a crazed stalker named Axel (Peter Hooten, ORCA, THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS) hunts down and abducts her, tying her to a bed and playing life-or-death mind games with her as we wonder if (a) he's the masked killer, and (b) he'll make good on his promise to eventually have the already suicidal woman begging him to kill her.

During these scenes, Fragasso gets to indulge his more artistic side with long takes featuring Axel and Melanie in dramatic close-up interactions of intense  psychological and emotional conflict. 

While the script may seem a bit overheated at times, it's actually quite dramatically engaging and the stars give riveting performances despite the fact (as we learn in one of the disc's bonus interviews) that they actually didn't like each other at all.  This is where Fragasso's desire to create something more than a slasher film really manifests itself and the film takes on perversely romantic overtones.

Meanwhile, on the other side of NIGHT KILLER'S stylistic divide, Bruno Mattei's industrious contributions keep gorehounds happy with at least three bloody murder setpieces, all climaxing with the old claw-glove through the torso bit.

Mattei's lurid, less refined visuals are a real contrast, as is a lengthy sequence of pure 80s flash-dancing in leg warmers and leotards as some really awful dancers practice a routine onstage which is mercifully interrupted by the film's first kill.

To be honest, I doubt I'd have detected the presence of two directors if I hadn't already known of it, since NIGHT KILLER comes off sort of like a suspenseful Giallo whodunnit infused with extra helpings of gratuitous nudity and graphic violence (not to mention a couple of nifty plot twists) to make the whole confection just that much tastier.

Buy it at Severin Films

Scanned in 4k from the original negative

Special Features:

    The Virginia Claw Massacre: Interview With Director Claudio Fragasso
    Mindfuck: Interview With Screenwriter Rossella Drudi


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