The Plot: Patrick is a wealthy businessman on the verge of marrying his young fiance. He invites all of his friends and his young wife to visit a large castle-like theater he owns but has been closed down. Along for the trip is Russell, Patrick’s fiances old flame. Rebecca and Doris, a lesbian couple indebted to Patrick. Albert, a doctor who owes Patrick money from opening his clinic for him, who is now married to Vivyan. Vivyan is a sweet woman who Patrick was once close to marrying, but was betrayed. Lastly there is Lynn, Patrick’s redheaded daughter who has brought along her boyfriend and may actually have some unhealthy hidden feelings for her father. They are all joined by a mysterious man that they met at a party nearby and recommended that they head here. However, this theater has a history and this mystery man seems to know the story. When bodies start to pile up, will this group of posh aristocrats manage to stay the entire night? If they do, who will survive?

The Review
Although I have spent the better half of this previous decade splurging on Italian horror cinema from the seventies, it wasn’t until almost a year ago that I made an honest effort to really tackle the Giallo with all of my ability. For those who don’t keep up with this sort of thing, the Giallo is a genre of thriller made in the sixties and seventies that focused on lurid subject matter such as hidden killers who often struck out and murdered innocent women while wearing black gloves. These movies were based off of very pulp novels that usually adorned yellow jackets, which is where they get the title “Giallo” from which is Italian for “yellow”. These movies more often than not featured a artist or writer who is thrown violently in the path of the killer and must search out the true identity of this madman before it is all too late. The Killer Reserved Nine Seats is an interesting addition to the genre, not because of anything overly different that it does but when it comes to hitting those conventional notes that we expect, it does a really good job at keeping the suspense up despite those of us in the audience who may feel that we have seen it all before.

I’m partial to the Giallo because even when a movie is relatively bad for what it is, the entertainment level is still there. I have a similar relationship with old school Kung Fu cinema. No matter what is going on in my day, I can pop in a Giallo or some old piece of Shaw Bros. history and I will be entertained for the next hour and half with little to no complaints. The Killer Reserved Nine Seats was a title that I knew very little about before hand, but just being a part of this genre was enough to grasp me by the collar. I am really glad that I’ve watched it as well because it may be one of the most unheralded, but completely solid, films that the genre has ever produced. Directed by the relatively unknown Giuseppe Bennati, the film holds true to many conventions and staples that helped mold the genre but the commitment to atmosphere and genuinely spooky concepts may just place this one ahead of many of the more popular titles that I have seen.

The soundtrack and main theme for the film is very classy and it helps establish this posh world that the rest of the movie is to take place in. Carlo Savina, who did the score, really brings out the Ennio Morricone vibe as this booming jazz-influenced soundtrack hums along. At every turn I was impressed with the music and I think had the film maybe featured some form of lesser musical accompaniment, it may not have had the impact that it does. Although much of the suspense and intrigue is derived from this fantastic score, the real meat and potatoes of the film is the surprising amount of time devoted to melodrama. The drama is taken to high levels as we see this group bicker back and forth with one another, but the surprising thing is that we actually see these characters become fleshed out. Although we as an audience have reasons to dislike every single one, the characters ultimately come off as human and three dimensional. When we see a duo who are planning on ripping Patrick off for his money, these characters SHOULD be the enemy, correct? Well it isn’t so simple and when these characters die, I actually felt sympathy for their plight. For this type of film there was no need for such character development, but by doing so it separates itself from the flock.

Atmosphere. That is what The Killer… does to perfection. From the outside looking in, I would have guessed that this was a Giallo made in the early part of the sixties and not a product of the mid-seventies. At this point in the stage of the Giallo, the conventions were really becoming prominent and the supernatural had all but been ruled out of the element. It seems that these films so often start off by hinting at the supernatural but as the film would progress, you would learn that this killer is simply a sinister human being. The Killer… however remains ambiguous until the final minutes as this ancient history of this theater comes to light. Are these characters going mad or is there a legitimate spirit moving within these events? While doing this, I couldn’t help but be reminded of older Hollywood horror films such as The House on Haunted Hill, which used a lot of the same tension and a similar “Ten Little Indians” style plot device. There is a legitimate air of fear by including this supernatural element, something that is often lost within most slashers and Giallo titles.

Finally, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats is also interesting for its breaking of various taboos throughout. It is odd to see in a film this old, a lesbian couple actually being treated relatively fare within the plot. Although they can be snakes, as everyone in the story is shown to be throughout, you also get the idea that there is a legitimate “relationship” that these two share. Rather than their simply being scornful fornicators. Even if there are hints that one of the two may not be the most faithful, the two do seem to share a true relationship of sorts. The violence for the most part is generally tame, with only one murder breaking through the borders of bad taste. Similar to What Have You Done to Solange?, vagina mutilation is once again on tap. This one murder actually stands out, while the rest are pretty bland throat slashings or stabbings that never go much further than your average stage death. That one death does almost make up for the lack of blood however, as the ferocity is something to be seen. The killer, who looks rather silly to be honest, seems like a barbarian as he repeatedly stabs this poor woman. As is customary, the killer wears his black gloves but he also sports a very strange looking “old man” mask that features a giant uni-brow that covers his forehead. Weird? Sure. Entertaining? Oh my yes!

The Conclusion
The Killer Reserved Nine Seats is pretty far from being perfect, there is no question. It follows genre formula without introducing enough of its own inventions, but I can’t help but REALLY like this movie! Although others may sit through it and wonder what all of the fuss was about, while watching I had the best time I have had with a Giallo in a very long period. The story is engaging, the characters were very well developed for this type of project, the red herrings were obvious but threw you off in a very fair manner and the pacing was brilliantly fast. This may be a rating I’ll feel different about later on, but I’m giving the project a four star rating. If I did halves, to be honest it would be a three and a half, but as it is I feel the need to round upward for this one! Definitely check it out if you can find a copy!