This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Sing along everyone, to the tune of That’s Amore:
Wheeeeen you’re stabbed in the eye
And you gruesomely die
Ahem. Giallo is a distinctive subgenre of Italian horror that emerged in the late 1960s, reached a peak of unusual artistic accomplishment in the 1970s, and degenerated (along with much of the rest of the Italian B-movie industry) into unmitigated trash in the 1980s. It’s a sort of heavily stylised precursor to the slasher movie, with a big emphasis on psychological horror, often a strong mystery element, and occasional whiffs of the supernatural.
The innovator of the genre is generally held to be the prolific Mario Bava. Like many Italian directors of his era, Bava’s filmography is massive and diverse, but his horror work was particularly important; having made a start as a cinematographer, he directed his second movie, I Vampiri, in 1956 after original director Riccardo Freda had a falling-out with the producers and walked out of the project, leaving Bava to complete the unfinished shoot in just two days. The end result wasn’t exactly distinguished, but it’s a historically important work because it was the first Italian horror movie to be released in the sound era; the genre had been banned under Mussolini, and though fascist-era restrictions had been eased there had been a question mark over whether the Italian market had any appetite for horror.