Astron-6 is — well, was as the recent release of the collected Divorced Dad is supposedly their last project together — a Canadian film production and directing company founded in 2007 by Adam Brooks and Jeremy Gillespie which later expanded to add Matt Kennedy, Conor Sweeney and Steven Kostanski. They’re known for producing low-budget horror/comedy films that evoke the 1980’s. The fact that their name sounds a lot like Vestron is no accident.
After their initial films — Manborg and Father’s Day — the team moved on to create this tribute/parody of the giallo genre. Gillespie and Kostanski also directed the incredible 2016 horror film The Void, which moves away from the humor of Astron-6.
Film editor Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks) was once a brilliant editor — the best in the world — but that time is far away. Now, he struggles to complete Francesco Mancini’s latest film Tarantola with his assistant Bella. He needs her, as an accident while lost in the madness of editing cost him all of the fingers on his right hand, which are now made of wood.
The loss of those fingers all goes back to Ray getting his start working for Bella’s father, art house director Umberto Fantori, whose debut film The Mirror and the Guillotine won him the success he craved and introduced him to his wife Josephine Jardin (Paz de la Huerta, Nurse 3D, Enter the Void). Eventually, Josephine went mad on Mancini’s next film, which was made to be the longest movie ever. Now, Ray is getting footage of murders sent to him. And to complicate matters, while his wife treats him with disdain, Bella tells him that she loves him.
An unknown killer stalks the studio, killing lead actor Claudio Valvetti and his girlfriend Veronica in a scene that echoes the curtain ripping and blood spraying of Argento’s Tenebre. Margarit Porfiry — another actress on the film — stumbles upon Veronica’s body — hung exactly like the first murder in Argento’s Suspiria — and is struck blind on the spot, making her look exactly like Emily from The Beyond, which the film extends by giving her a dog named Rolfie instead of Dickie.
While her husband Inspector Peter Porfiry (Matthew Kennedy) interviews suspects, co-star Cal Konitz (Conor Sweeney) has his hopes of taking over the movie ruined when a stand-in is found for the lead. Porify’s boss Chief O’Connor wants the case dropped because Margarit is his daughter, but the cop is convinced that the editor is behind the killings, as each murder takes away the fingers of the victim.
Rey has a vision of a dark man with bright blue eyes — Ivan Rassimov, we miss you so — coming after him. Meanwhile, the inspector goes to the insane asylum where Rey lived for some time, meeting Dr. Casini (Udo Kier!), who tells him all about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The detective returns home just in time to make love to his wife in a near shot-for-shot remake of the glass smashing love in Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh. The killer then makes his or her way into their home and when the cop tries to break into the room with an axe to save her — kind of, sort of like the cemetery scene in City of the Living Dead by way of The Shining — the killer throws her in the way. In order to not be seen as a murderer, Porfiry cuts off his wife’s fingers and feeds them to her dog.
His boss — and remember, the father of his dead wife — screams at Porfiry back at the station while the killer calls to taunt the cop in a scene much like The New York Ripper. That won’t be the last callback to that Fulci film, either.
Rey has gone over the edge, believing himself to be the killer as his wife treats him horribly. He dreams that he is trapped in a world of smoke and gigantic film cans that seems much like the world inside the painting in The Beyond. He gets a psychic flash that Bella is to be murdered but arrives too late to save her.
Giancarlo tries to finish the movie himself, but an army of spiders — again, The Beyond — attacks and he is killed as well. Rey is brought back onto the film and Father Clarke (Laurence Harvey, Frankenstein Created Bikers) explains to him that editors are the vital connection to the other world that Rey glimpsed in his vision. We’ve now gotten to the part of the giallo where reality stops and the Lovecraftian vision takes over.
Everything goes even crazier, if that’s possible, with Cal menacing Rey with a chainsaw before attacking his wife in front of him, ending with his wife laughing it off as she’d been having an affair with the actor. There’s also an ancient bell tower, more tarantulas, a film canister filled with fingers, occult rituals, Josephine declaring herself to be death itself ala the end of Inferno, a fake-out ending that pulls off The Wizard of Oz while again recalling Fulci — both The Psychic and The Beyond — and a post-credits happy ending where Rey and Bella end up together.
This is one strange film. If you’re not hyper aware of giallo, you may be lost by all the references. And if you are, you may be unable to totally take in the narrative as so much of the film feels like spot the reference. That said, I found myself liking The Editor and excited to see where it would go next. The final sequence as the detective and the editor battle the real killer is actually pretty thrilling. And wow, the music is awesome, with Claudio Simonetti composing the main theme.
There are also references in this film to The Fifth Cord, Black Belly of the Tarantula, Fellini’s Amaracord, Videodrome and even Murder Rock. Obviously, I’ve seen just as many giallo as the Astron-6 guys.
Even better, the credits keep the story going with Rey Cistro listed as the film’s editor. I also adore the posters for the films within the film, which were created by Graham Humphreys.
This is another review that was inspired by Good Bad Flicks.