A series of gruesome (neo-Giallo-styled) murders occur in a serene Southern town (modern, yet “gothic”; a community where people roam the streets in a Carpenteresque-Spielbergian innocence as folks gather at the community center—and put the ol’ Shakespearian finger to the lips regarding the village’s “past”) committed by a cape and cowled figure accompanied by a young girl (Alice Lewis): the “shape” serves as her “murder weapon.” Thrust into the horror is Jonathan Wyndham (Joe Sykes), an injured war veteran returning to college. Sexual tensions ensue with Margaret Merrill, a county social worker whose mother is a State Supreme Court Judge (Lynn Lowry). Margaret’s life faces grave danger as she discovers Jonathan’s connection to the murders and that the bloodshed is somehow seeded in her own mother’s political corruption.
The familiar, welcomed horror mainstays of John Sykes (V/H/S) and Lynn Lowry (George Romero’s The Crazies, David Cronenberg’s Shivers*, and Paul Schrader’s Cat People**) star in this revenge thriller that also serves as the screen debut of Atlanta-based teen-cosplay model Alice Lewis; you may know her digital oeuvre through the social media-based “Malice of Alice” portfolio where, in conjunction with her mother-photographer Kelly Lewis, they recreate famous pop culture icons (e.g., Mathilda Lando from Leon: The Professional, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust persona, Hit-Girl from Kick Ass, Taylor Swift).
J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s iconic and influential lesbian vampire tale, “Carmilla,”*˟ from his short story collection In a Glass Darkly, returned to the streamingverse in 2014 with Bret Wood’s adaptation, The Unwanted. Wood now returns to the streamingverse with another novella adaptation: this time it is Thomas De Quincey’s The Avenger (spoiler alert: read the public domain Wikisource version here). And if you know your Giallo trivia: Dario Argento used De Quincey’s Suspiria, the short story “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow” in particular, as an inspiration for his “Three Mothers” trilogy of films: Suspiria, Inferno and The Mother of Tears. And, to that end: Wood splatters a ’70s Giallo stain on Those Who Deserve to Die.
Everything de rigueur in our Gialli of old and attendu in our yellow-syndromed Gialli of new spatters across Wood’s fantastique palate: style over ambiguous substance, eccentric characters of the ulterior and outright evil variety; each slopping their own baskets of red herrings, oozing colors, oddball lighting, enraptured set design—all of the symptoms cataloged by our cherished medical maestros Argento and Bava.
Yeah, you know all about us horror-loving lads frocking about the wilds of Allegheny County: we love our Giallo around here. In fact, we recently did a week-long tribute the genre, which we recapped and reviewed with our “Exploring: Giallo” round-up. And to that end: Bret Wood is the latest of the new crop of Young Turks (most recently; Matthew Diebler and Jacob Gillman’s The Invisible Mother and Marc Cartwright’s We Die Alone)—overflowing with skill, class and style—keeping the Giallo genre alive for a new generation—and birthing a new genre: Neo-Giallo, or what I like to call “Giallo Impressionism.”
And Bret Wood’s neoism is impressive. So strap on the popcorn bucket, hit the big red streaming button (Amazon Prime/Google Play) and let the rivers ooze yellow. As of August 18 you can also pick up Blus and DVDs: both contain Bonus Features of deleted scenes, along with the promotional vignette “Malice of Alice: a Mother/Daughter Portrait” and Security, a 2007 short film by Bret Wood. You can learn more at Kino Lorber and on their Facebook page, along with the film’s official Facebook page. You can also read these Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviews with Bret Wood and Alice Lewis to learn more about their respective careers.
Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.
* While we haven’t got around to reviewing Cronenberg’s Shivers (Uh, Sam? And how is my Robert Clouse Gymkata dare coming along?), we did review Cronenberg’s “big engine” movie, Fast Company, as part of our week-long tribute to The Fast and the Furious film franchise. You can read all of those reviews with our “Savage Cinema (and “Fast and Furious Week”) Recap!” and “Exploring: The Clones of the Fast & Furious” round ups of the week.
** We’re reviewing Cat People as part of our “Werewolf Week” running Sunday, September 23 to Saturday, September 29.
*˟ We’re reviewing And Die of Pleasure, Roger Vadim’s 1960 adaptation of “Carmilla,” as part of our upcoming “Vampire Week” running Sunday, September 6 to Saturday, September 12.