Monday, June 27, 2016

Door into Silence (1991)

Popular consensus seems to dictate that the 90’s were a down time for horror following the massive boom of the 70’s and 80’s. Italian horror found itself in a particularly interesting place at the dawn of the 90’s with many fans feeling that as the 80’s drew to a close, the Italian horror industry began to decline, despite the emergence of new blood like Michele Soavi and films like Stage Fright (1987) and The Church (1989) and Gianfranco Giagni’s The Spider Labyrinth (1988). While Dario Argento remained on top in terms of popularity and box office draw, other Italian masters like Sergio Martino began to move away from horror and concentrate on TV work while others like Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi continued to make horror films going into the 90’s only to basically retire from features by the mid-90’s. Despite numerous health setbacks, Lucio Fulci stayed the course throughout the 80’s and going into the 90’s. Even though his post-New York Ripper (1982) films are often looked down upon, several of Fulci’s films from this period are nonetheless interesting and some rather personal, A Cat In the Brain (1990) immediately springs to mind. Although it wasn’t intended to be, 1991’s Door into Silence would eerily and prophetically wind up being Fulci’s final film and its an effective, low key little chiller that essentially see’s Fulci looking the inevitable right in the eyes.

After a pit stop to visit his fathers grave, real estate agent Melvin Devereux (John Savage) sets out on his return home to his wife following a business trip in New Orleans. With the main highway closed, Melvin is forced to take the back roads and along the way encounters a hearse which no matter how hard he tries is unable to pass. Melvin’s trip home soon take a turn for the unusual as he discovers a mysterious woman following him who claims to be “waiting” for him and begins to find himself in one strange situation after another. The more Melvin confronts the hearse on the road, the more obsessed he becomes with the contents of the casket inside, gradually turning his journey into a waking nightmare.

Door into Silence is often negatively compared to a feature length Twilight Zone episode and although those comparisons are dismissive of the film they're somewhat accurate in terms of the films trajectory. Much like a Twilight Zone episode, the film beings with a typical, everyday situation and gradually takes a turn for the freighting and its precisely what makes the film work as well as it does, Fulci’s turning of the mundane into something surreal. Stylistically, the film is an exercise in minimalism. There are long stretches of time in the film where seemingly nothing happens except Melvin driving, however Fulci uses these moments to really let the increasingly bizarre nature of Melvin’s day sink in. A common criticism of the film is its lack of mystery and its true that its fairly obvious where the film is headed but in a way Fulci makes it glairing apparent from the first few frames of the film. In the end, this is a film where the answer of where its heading is far less important than the way the question is asked, and Fulci poses the question in a variety of interesting ways. To his credit, Fulci also does pepper the film with instances which may make some question the films ultimate destination so its not entirely out in the open. The film was shot on location on the back roads and small towns of southern Louisiana, a place with a mystique unique unto itself making the eerie mood of the film very naturalistic.

The film was produced by Joe D’Amato’s Filmirage company who, amongst other things, also produced the infamous Troll 2 (1990) and if some of the music in the film sounds familiar its because certain pieces were lifted from Troll 2 although they’re quite effective here and surprisingly don’t clash with the phenomenal jazz music that makes up the rest of the score. Interestingly, D’Amato muse, Black Emmanuelle herself, Laura Gemser, is credited as the costume designer for the film just as she was for Troll 2. While D’Amato went on record saying the film was the best he produced, the film was barley released and where it was it was tinkered with by distributors who changed the music much to Fulci’s disappointment. The opening credits also read “Directed by H. Simon Kittay” as according to Fulci, one of the films distributors felt that Fulci wasn’t an in demand name at the time therefore nobody would want to see the film. Another fun fact, star John Savage and actress Sandi Schultz who plays the mystery women in the film were married in 1993. While Door into Silence may seem worlds apart from Fulci’s more famous horror titles, its nonetheless an interesting watch not simply because it was Fulci’s final film but also in the way it sees Fulci exploring a heavy subject that was clearly on his mind quite a bit at the time.

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