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Pulp Culture
Imports from Italy and Asia provide Halloween frights

October 30, 2003
By Franklin Harris

So, it's the day before Halloween, and you want to rent a horror movie. But the corner video store is fresh out of "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" sequels because everyone else has the same idea. What do you do? What do you do?

Lucky for you, I'm here to help.

My first Halloween rental suggestion is "Cemetery Man," a 1994 Italian import from director Michele Soavi, a protégé of Italy's foremost horror filmmaker, Dario Argento.

Also known as "Dellamorte Dellamore," the film stars Rupert Everett ("Inspector Gadget") as the caretaker of a cemetery where the dead refuse to stay dead. Between rounds of dispatching zombies back to the other side, he becomes infatuated with a beautiful young widow, played Anna Falchi, whose lack of acting skill is compensated by the fact that, in the event of a water landing, she can double as a floatation device, if you know what I mean.

"Cemetery Man" is as much a black comedy as it is a zombie film, and under Soavi's direction is has a surreal, dreamlike quality that becomes especially apparent by the end.

Of Soavi's films, this is probably the one you are most likely to find at the neighborhood Blockbuster. But if you can't track it down, keep an eye out for two other Soavi movies: "Stagefright," his first directorial outing and a solid body count flick, and "The Church," an occult epic starring a young Asia Argento ("XXX") and with a screenplay by her dad, Dario.

For the rest of my recommendations, I turn to the Far East. Asia has become the world's center of horror filmmaking, with Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea all turning out several first-rate movies in the last few years.

"Ringu" by director Hideo Nakata is the Japanese film that DreamWorks remade as "The Ring." And while "The Ring" is probably the best American horror film of the last decade, "Ringu" is no less scary. In some ways it is even creepier, because it leaves more questions unanswered. And nothing is scarier than the unknown.

A movie in a similar vein is "The Eye." Creeping along at a deliberate pace, this thriller from Hong Kong combines the escalating tension of "Ringu" with a plot reminiscent of "The Sixth Sense." A blind girl receives a cornea transplant and soon finds she can see the dead as well as the living. But not all of the ghosts she sees are friendly. So, she sets out to learn the identity of the dead man who is the source of her transplanted corneas.

If blood and gore are what you want, then you can do worse than director Toshiharu Ikeda's relentless splatterfest, "Evil Dead Trap."

On the trail of a snuff video, a TV news reporter and her crew go to an abandoned factory, where they become targets for a mysterious psycho lurking in the shadows. Scenes of torture, mutilation and death follow.

Note: There is a sequel, "Evil Dead Trap 2," but I haven't seen it, and what I've heard about it isn't good. So make sure you get the original.

And lastly, I come to "Audition." Now, consider yourself warned: This is not a film for the squeamish or for people who think they might be squeamish. I am not kidding, and I don't want to hear about it if watching "Audition" leaves you scarred for life.

Japan's foremost horror director, Takashi Miike ("Ichi the Killer"), helms this tale of desire gone wrong. The movie starts out as a romance, but it becomes something rather different. Let's just say that holding a phony audition for a non-existent movie is not the safest way to meet women.

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