Feb 4, 2009
The Plot: In a prestigious college within Rome, bad things are beginning to come about. With the death of young women by a gloved killer, who has an extreme distate for the female persuasion. After slashing a girl apart in the woods, the killer leaves behind a solid clue: a scarf that few could have possible had. A red and black combo that would be easy to spot. Jane is a young and beautiful girl who was good friends with the dead girl, and after the police bring the scarf to her college and address the students she remembers where she saw the scarf: on Stefano, a young man who has a bit of an obsession with her. She is terrified when a desperate Stefano catches her in the hallway and pretty soon Jane decides she needs time away from Rome. She is given the opportunity to travel by train out of town to spend some time at her friend’s villa, but unfortunate for her – the killer too has decided to come along. Will she be able to survive the horrors of this gloved madman?

The Review: I’ve been hearing a lot about Sergio Martino for quite a while now, and at the top of his list of films that get recommended to me most often has to be Torso. It’s a film I’ve been hearing about for years, since before even my introduction to Fulci and Argento so many years ago. Often hailed as one of the best of the giallo genre, so of course it was only a matter of time before I tracked it down. However, it wasn’t until recently that the Giallo bug really bit me, as I realized how little experience I have with films not directed by Argento. Lacking in my Bava, Martino and Soavi – I figure it’s all but time to correct that mistake! Torso is perhaps the most stylish giallo/slasher I have ever seen outside of those directed by Dario Argento. Martino’s command of the visual medium is really striking, to a degree that puts him up with the very best of the great visual directors of Italian genre cinema – which is really the top echelon of great horror filmmakers. If he isn’t already a name you recognize at this point, you may want to correct that mistake.

Torso essentially defines the entire Giallo movement/genre in a nutshell. It contains everything you already know and love that these films almost always deliver, and for those unfamiliar with the genre – it proves just how powerful the formula can be when done correctly. You’ve got all the staples of the genre, beautiful women being stalked by a gloved killer, lots of grisly violence that seems to come from out of nowhere and of course a third act twist that almost no one outside of maybe Mrs. Chloe could see coming. The twist however is at least set-up a little more on the fair side of things in this film, as opposed to some in the genre that I have seen that really could care less how clued in the audience is. The script handles the red herrings in an interesting fashion, and throws enough at the audience that it succesfully fakes us out into believing one or two other suspects might be the culprits when in fact the reality turns out to be something entirely different. The third act, during the midst of this climax, exhudes a tremendous amount of on-screen tension. Hitchcockian at times, Martino handles the torrid drama of dread and anticipation in true fashion. Torso steps up the ante and does provide a better version of just what the Giallo should be, and also throws in a few new interesting dynamics along with all the familiar cliches.

The most stirring and noticeable addition to the mix for me was likely the flamboyant sexuality of the film. It isn’t anything new for a giallo to have a few pairs of breasts pop up here and there, but Torso certainly seems to be free spirited in its sexuality in a far more outspoken way. The film opens up with a menage a trois featuring two beautiful women and a man, definitely an interesting way to start just about any motion picture. There’s also a full on lesbian sex scene thrown in for good measure, the beginnings of another threeway with two guys on one girl and a decent amount of random nudity spread throughout the film. I’m not exactly a pervert mind you, but it’s one of those things that instantly stuck out from my vantage point and I figure some readers might want to be forewarned. This one might not be the best thing to watch around the house while celebrating mother’s day, or else you’ll just wind up getting a bunch of strange looks. So the film definitely picks up and runs off with the sex, but how is the violence? Well, from what I have been lucky enough to see from the genre, the violence in most Giallos rarely breaks through as “gory” – but fans have come to expect some form of grizzly murder sequences – and Torso doesn’t let the audience down. Slashing galore and even a few limbs being sawed away from the body as the finale steamrolls over the audience makes for a pretty gruesome little Giallo. Certainly not grotesque, but it should appease the gorehounds in the audience hoping at least for something a bit on the shocking side.

I won’t stand up and say that Torso has become one of my absolute favorites from the Italian horror scene, I don’t think that could really be possible. Although it is an exceptionally beautiful Italian slasher, it is still just that: a slasher. It is a Giallo and it follows that fairly strict set of guidelines that makes it one. Even though it does break free of genre cliches at times and throws in quite a few curveballs throughout (including a complete switch around in the last act as we focus on another character who becomes the new focus of our story) it’s still a film made rife in convention. For those who love the genre however, it is often rightfully referred to as one of the best. It’s a stylish, violent and savagely sexual giallo that grabs the audience from the start and never lets go. I give the film a four out of five and have to say that for what it does, it does it extremely well.

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