EDITOR’S NOTE: Cinematic Void will be playing this American giallo on Wednesday, January 4 and Friday, January 7 at 7:00 PM at the Central Cinema in Knoxville, TN along with Dressed to Kill. It also is playing on January 21 at 9:30 PM at Sie Film Center, Denver, CO (tickets here) and January 30 at 7:00 PM PT at the Los Feliz 3 in Los Angeles (tickets here). For more information, visit Cinematic Void.
I’m going to start this off with an unpopular take. This is not a bad movie. When I first met my wife, she used to tell me how much she loved it and I thought she was crazy. Surely, everyone online that went out of their way to destroy it had to be right, right?
Wrong. Go with me on this alternative universe logic — if Lindsey Lohan were a disgraced movie star in 1967 instead of 2007, she would have gone to Italy to make movies for directors like Bava, Argento, Martino and Antonio Margheriti. She would have been in the same company as Anita Ekberg, Florinda Bolkan, Elke Somer and even Edwige Fenech.
The film has all the hallmarks of giallo: a serial killer is abducting, torturing and killing young women in the suburb of New Salem. An evening of fun for Aubrey Fleming (Lohan) turns into weeks of torture as she wakes up bound and gagged on an operating table, her hands deep in dry ice.
The FBI Task Force has already given up hope of finding the killer, but a driver discovers Aubrey on a deserted road in the middle of the night. To the shock of her parents, she declares that she’s really a stripper named Dakota Moss and has no idea who Aubrey Fleming is. And then she realizes that she’s missing her hand and half of her leg.
At this point, you’re either going to give up on this movie or dive in. I advise diving right in.
While the police, the doctors and her parents believe that this is all PTSD, Aubrey/Dakota insists that she is not who anyone thinks she is. Things get weirder when FBI agents discover a story on Aubrey’s laptop about a girl with an alter ego named Aubrey. And DNA confirms that Dakota really is Aubrey. This inversion of identity is key to the main tenets of classic giallo.
Dakota has a theory of her own: She’s Aubrey’s twin sister and her injuries are Corsican Brothers-like (or Tomax and Xamot, if you prefer) sympathetic wounds as she experiences the plight of her symbiotic sibling.
Sure, her mother has a pregnancy ultrasound that shows only one fetus. But Dakota confronts her father (or Aubrey’s, stay with me) as she believes that her mother lost that child soon after its birth and that she and Aubrey were the twin children of a crack addict named Virginia Sue Moss. Aubrey was taken to live in comfort city mouse style while she stayed with Moss, trailer park mouse style. The complication? Virginia Sue Moss was yet another character from Aubrey’s short story.
Richard Roeper claims that this is the worst movie of the 2000s, calling the film “a ridiculous thriller (minus the thrills)” and saying that it’s filled with a” nonsensical plot that grows sillier by the second, tawdry special effects, heavy-handed symbolism that’s big on electric-blue hues and mechanical performances are all culprits as far as the title’s concerned.” Has Roeper even seen a giallo? Because reading that sentence makes me want to watch this movie all over again!
Back to the movie: Dakota starts to see visions of the killer slicing up his captive which draws her to the cemetery. As she investigates the grave of another victim, Aubrey’s friend Jennifer, she finds a blue ribbon from a piano competition. Aubrey was a noted pianist and there’s a note attached from her (and Jennifer’s) piano teacher, Douglas Norquist. As her father (or Aubrey’s, look, it’s not a giallo if you don’t get confused) looks on, she declares, “I know who killed me.”
That’s because the ribbon says, “Blue Ribbons Are For Winners, Never Settle For The Red, Rest In Peace, Douglas.” It’s a metaphor for the lives of the twins: Aubrey is the blue chipper with a boyfriend that loves her, good grades, plenty of friends and a bright future. Dakota works in the red light district and faces a life of poverty.
Without any police backup — again, this happens all the time in giallo — they confront Norquist. Daniel is killed before Aubrey leaves the safety of the car and enters the house. She fights Norquist, cutting off his hand, before she’s tied up. He asks her why she returned after he buried her alive before she frees herself and kills him. She heads into the woods where she digs up Aubrey, verifying that she was not insane and had been right all along. Then, she lies on the ground with her twin sister.
Some of the few critics who liked this movie compared it to Brian DePalma or David Lynch films. Sure. Or you could go right to the source — Italy.
If you replaced the score of the film (that said, I love that The Sword and The Melvins are heard in this film) with some insane synth or orchestral music (someone get Claudio Simonetti, Piero Umiliani or Morricone on the line), if you made the homes space age lounges filled with improbable furniture and if you had more than one scene of Lohan stripping (any of the sex in this movie is honestly the unsexiest sex ever, they should have really studied Sergio Martino movies), this movie would fit perfectly into my DVD collection between Hatchet for the Honeymoon and Inferno. Who am I kidding? It’s on my shelf already!
This is not the first time Lohan played twins on film, thanks to starring in the remakes of Freaky Friday and The Parent Trap. Again, this is perfect giallo casting — not to mention pure exploitation — showing her gone to seed as two twins who couldn’t be more different.
However, this was not an easy movie to film for director Chris Sivertson, as Lohan had an appendix operation during shooting. Plus, there were times when she would not show up at all — necessitating a body double be used to film the end of the movie. Even worse, she was followed by paparazzi throughout the shoot and some of them are still in the background of a few shots!
There are giallo techniques used throughout the film, such as a neon sign outside the strip club that foreshadows Dakota’s injuries and the fact that Bava-esque blue and red lighting determines which character is on screen between Aubrey and Dakota.
While so many decry this film for not making any sense, if you’ve made it through any number of classics (sure, the director claims Hitchcock as a primary influence, but you can say that he’s the well from which all giallo flows) like The Bird With the Crystal Plumage or Deep Red or A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, you’re going to be just fine. The world was just ready to devour Lindsey Lohan and this film would be its sacrificial lamb. Oh if only there were an Italian film industry for her to turn to and appear alongside Ivan Rassimov!