Stefania Di Giandomenico (= Stefania Stella) for Mediaset, Sail Production
directed by Al Festa
starring Rick Gianasi, Stefania Stella, David Warbeck, Ugo Pagliai, Leo Daniel, Alida Valli, Geoffrey Copleston, Linnea Quigley, Donald Pleasence, Angus Scrimm, Giorgio Albertazzi, Rossano Brazzi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Massimo Pitarello, Marcel Malcoun, Andrea Festa, Nina Soldano, Veronica Logan, Linda Prester, Giorgia Bongianni, Marinella Furgiuele, Mats Hedberg, Valerio Isidori, Cinzia Berni, Giovanna Nodari, Spiwe Sibanda, Andrea Pelosi, Vlad Scolari, Claudio Fuiano, Massimo Lavagnini, Danilo Del Monte, Corrado Lannaioli, Alessandro Bentivegna, Rinaldo Rustico, Costantino Curci, Haria Morasca, Cristina Da Rold, Gloria Maniscalco, Dario Maniscalco, Omero Capanna, Claudia Palmeri, Penny Brown
written by Al Festa, Alessandro Monese, Mary Rinaldi, music by Al Festa, special effects by Steve Johnson
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On the request of his friend, the producer Dan (Leo Daniel), American
film director Alex Ritt (Rick Gianasi) comes to Rome to film the latest
videoclip of Stefania Stella (Stefania Stella), an Italian recording
artist on the verge of becoming an international pop-sensation. Thing is,
apparently Alex has brought with him the Videokiller, a homicidal maniac
who back in the States has killed five women, among them Alex' wife,
hidden their bodies but sent videotapes about his evil deeds to the police
- but while back in the USA the Videokiller killed women at random, it
seems here in Rome he kills only those close to Alex, like two dancers
(Veronica Logan, Linda Prester) and a tarot card reader (Nina Soldano).
What's worse though is that for police inspector Bonelli (David Warbeck),
Alex has become the prime suspect, and instead of following other clues,
he seems to exclusively investigate his involvement in the whole thing -
but he just can't really prove anything ... which - like in all good
murder mysteries - forces Alex to do some investigation himself.
Inspector Bonelli meanwhile receives massive help (both wanted and
unwanted) from the USA, by the likes of Professor Robinson (Donald
Pleasence) and Mr Fairbrain (Geoffrey Copleston), the latter being the
stepdad of Alex' dead wife - and it soon becomes clear that pretty much
everybody in the USA suspects Alex to be the (stateside) Videokiller as
Alex meanwhile has teamed up with a parapsychologist (Linnea Quigley)
for his investigations, but before he knows it she is slaughtered as well,
and as usual, a videotape is sent to the police - only on this videotape,
the shadow of the killer can be seen, and the shadow looks nothing like
Alex, which pretty much clears him of any suspicion.
Suddenly, Alex' friend Dan becomes the culprit, and he is almost shot
dead. It's only by accident, that Alex finds out that it was actually
Stefania who was the Videokiller, but when he wants to confront her he is
instead confronted with all the victims the Videokiller has killed in Rome
- and he breaks down and confesses he is the original US-Videokiller, and
it is also revealed that the Roman victims of teh killer are all alive and
well and it was all just an elaborate ploy to make Alex confess, with all
the victims plus Stefania being relatives of Alex' victims back in the USA
and it all being orchestrated by Alex' own stepdad Fairbrain ...
First and foremost, one can't deny that Fatal Frames looks
good. All shots are carefully composed, great care is taken with light and
colour, and camera setups and movements are most of the time quite
accomplished - just like something out of a Dario Argento-movie. Thing is,
this is not Dario Argento-movie, and while in Argento's films his
elaborate compositions and camerawork is always plot-driven and artistic,
here it is just bloodless and derivative - and it's not at all helped by
the fact that the film itself quotes a lot of Argento's best films, most
prominently Deep Red and Tenebre.
That the plot has a few too many twists and turns for its own good and
tries much too hard to be clever (which it isn't on close inspection) to
remain credible of course doesn't help one bit either, nor does it help
that all the lead characters are rather unlikeable. What remains is a
bunch of genre veterans (like David Warbeck, Donald Pleasence [in his last
film], Linnea Quigley and Angus Scrimm) in bigger and smaller roles who at
least put a smile on your face (the funniest scene is actually Donald
Pleasence - or rather a stand-in for the then deceased actor - phoning in
to say he has to be stateside at Halloween tu reexamine an old case - to a
very Halloween-like score) - but that's about it, the film hasn't got
much more to go for ...
review © by Mike Haberfelner
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