The Plot: Melvin Devereux (John Savage) is a realtor visiting New Orleans for his father’s funeral. Immediately afterward he runs into a strange woman who says that the two have met before and that they will meet again in the near future. Aggravated and confused, Melvin heads down the road to the highway that leads to his home in Abbeville. He soon runs into trouble however as the exit is closed off. This leads him on a path off the main road where he has a chance encounter with a hearse that is apparently driven by a mad man! The driver doesn’t let Melvin pass and swerves on both sides of the road in order to deliberately block him. However, Melvin notices something in the back of the hearse: a heap of flowers with a ribbon wrapped around them bearing his own name. As Melvin finds all roads that lead to Abbeville are blocked at every turn, this hearse continues to haunt him and his own curiosity is eating away at him. Who is the mysterious driver and who is this strange woman following him around in a red sports-car?

The Review
In life you’ll often run into debates where things are generally black and white. As Quentin Tarantino once pointed out, you’re either an Elvis fan or you’re a Beatles fan. You can like both, you can even love both, but one of those two will in some way or another define you more as a person. I have always been more of an Elvis kind of guy and when it comes to Italian horror there are two names that carry just as much impact: Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Although it is well known that I love both filmmakers and I’ve dedicated a lot of time here on Varied Celluloid to exploring Argento’s filmography, I have always identified myself more as a Lucio Fulci kind of guy. That usually gets me some puzzled looks from my fellow film geeks who find his work less than stimulating. That is understandable I suppose as Lucio Fulci is the definition of a hit or miss filmmaker. As television slowly faded out interest in Italian genre film during the eighties, the quality of work tended to suffer for all of these great filmmakers at the time. Fulci could already be a rather spotty director at times, but working in this new world of even smaller budgets and limitations didn’t help produce Fulci’s greatest work. Door Into Silence actually comes at the tail end of Fulci’s career, one of his very last projects in fact, so my expectations were obviously quite low going into it but I won’t lie, I found it to be a rather pleasant surprise.

If you aren’t familiar with me, I am a life long Louisiana native. Until recently, there weren’t many major films produced down here that didn’t specifically deal with a Louisiana based subject. Yet, during the eighties Fulci and other Italians seemed drawn to this neck of the woods for some reason. So I can’t lie, it is always fun for me to see the New Orleans area in film. The area itself is rife for fiction and really contributed to the gothic atmosphere of titles such as this, The Beyond and Lamberto Bava’s Macabre. Although I don’t want to go immediately placing Door Into Silence on the same level as something like The Beyond (which is arguably Lucio Fulci’s finest flm), but it is nowhere near as poor as many of Fulci’s other works from this time period (including The House of Clocks). What makes this film stand out in comparison to those final Fulci titles is its clever nature. Normally your average Fulci script seemed like a mashed together series of ideas that never really tied together, but were blended with one another through visual concepts. Fulci was never the strongest narrative filmmaker, but Door Into Silence was a nice deviation from that. Without a drop of blood, Fulci showed after years of making his name in horror as the Godfather of Gore that he could actually handle some suspense!

I won’t argue that some bits of this can be fairly clunky. There is no getting past that. At times the pace seems drag and the script falls into meandering when something should be going on but Fulci actually manages to build up some atmosphere with this title and ultimately crafts out a rather fun little thriller. He isn’t known for his scripts, but I have to say that for a Fulci title Door Into Silence is actually more intelligent than one might expect. There is a flowing theme of repetition that goes through the film, that on first glance seems to be from poor craft but as the movie goes along and the big reveal comes out (a big reveal that isn’t very hidden, to be honest) you begin to see that repetition is the crux of our story. Although it is hard to go into it without spoiling things, there are so many moments throughout that lead me to this conclusion. During the course of this massive car chase that takes place over the course of the entire running time, Melvin continually runs into similar situations over and over again. At the start of his journey, Melvin first bypasses a “road closed” sign only to be pulled over by traffic cops on the highway. In a short amount of time from there Melvin runs into yet another “road closed” sign, but instead of bypassing it this time he chooses to chase after the supernatural hearse vehicle down a deserted and muddy road which leads him to a rickety old bridge that his tire gets stuck in. After jamming the accelerator to the floor, Melvin finally pulls out of this hole and ultimately finds his tire stuck in ANOTHER hole somewhere down the road. After this, during our massive chase Melvin finds himself stuck at a bridge while the hearse barely makes it to the other side as the bridge raises up so that a boat can pass underneath. Skip forward a little while down the road and we find Melvin stuck at another crossroads, after the hearse dashes forward again, while he waits for a train to pass.

Although not the most subtle of hints thrown at the audience, this goes far beyond what one might normally expect from Fulci. Subtext is usually a forgotten element. Yet, for all of its clunky qualities I really appreciate the attempt from Fulci and I think it certainly makes one of his better ‘late-films’. Like those other titles, Door Into Silence unfortunately can’t help but look rather cheap. Still, Fulci does his best with the material and manages to get some interesting visual flare in some of the more mundane shots. The mysterious woman that shows up throughout has an interesting look to her as she dresses like a business woman but drives a vibrant red sports car. Red is often synonymous with sexuality and she at first appears to be an agent of sexual desire, but ultimately reveals some hidden ambitions. It’s funny mentioning her red sportscar, as she even wears a red undershirt to match the vehicle and within the impossibly green surroundings that are Louisiana she can’t help but stick out. Not all of the film can be great however, I must admit. As with any Fulci title there are the various moments that make you scratch your head such as a scene that takes place early on where our leading man is convinced to rent a Motel room in order to clean up while his car is being repaired for 15 minutes. I don’t care how rich you are, renting a motel room for 15 minutes when you expect to be alone doesn’t seem like the most frugal thing to do. I should also make mention of the music while I am at it, which is unfortunately out of place with what the movie calls for. The jazz music that plays throughout isn’t really all that bad, as it is the calling card of New Orleans but the remainder of the music completely dates the movie in a very bad way. Sounding like what one would get if they crossed a bad eighties action movie with the 8-bit tunes that blasted forth from your average NES videogame.

The Conclusion
Let’s be honest, Door Into Silence isn’t going to be considered one of Fulci’s greatest titles no matter how much I may have liked it. It doesn’t have that Fulci look to it, there’s no gore and it is ultimately less of a horror movie and more of your average thriller. It does have real problems holding it back as well. The pacing is a bit off at times, the repetition that goes on early throws the viewer off and seems tedious and boring no matter how much I think it ultimately pays off. Many of the performances are stilted and appear to be the work of first time actors in small roles, perhaps Louisiana natives. So, with all of this said, I give the movie a three out of five. I found myself really torn on this as I actually wanted to give it a four. I think in terms of a recommendation however, I’ll settle for the safe score of three since others will more than likely see less of the great material and more from the eye sores.