Presented by the American Cinematheque, Los Angeles' inaugural Beyond Fest (October 10-31) kicks off this week with a sickening slate catered to genre nerds looking for both new, never-before-seen films and repertory screenings of classics you might only find in the most primitive cult video store. If you're not in LA to attend this first-ever festival, or even if you are, you'll find plenty of films by Beyond Fest-featured directors to stream at home for your viewing (dis)pleasure. Trailers, and more films, after the jump.
Among the highlights of this first edition of Beyond Fest is a trio of 35mm Dario Argento screenings, including cult classic "Deep Red," starring the great David Hemmings, and of course "Suspiria," the midnight movie to end all midnight movies. The films will be accompanied live by Italian rock quintet Goblin who, in their first LA appearance, will appear in concert to play their nerve-plucking original scores.
While forgivably dated and irresistibly cheesy, Argento's 1970 directorial debut "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" (Fandor) delivers a taste of the visceral thrills, mod atmosphere and stylized violence to come from the man who went on to direct dozens of visually stunning thrillers that launched a 1970s wave of Italian arthouse horror. If you can overcome the ghastly dubbing that has permanently marred his work -- possibly at its worst in "Suspiria" -- the pleasure of Argento's films is how he flaunts their inelegancies and imperfections.
To supplement your own personal Giallo retrospective at home, two seminal Argento films are available free to Amazon Prime users. Unfortunately for purists, the stream of "Phenomena" (1985) is the heavily truncated U.S. version, which came to our shores under the moniker "Creepers." But having seen the original full-length cut of this eerie cinematic nightmare about a girl (young, sublime Jennifer Connelly) shuttered in where-else-but a repressive boarding school where she communicates telepathically with insects, it's safe to say "Phenomena" could have used a little trimming. Argento's lack of focus and errant subplots hamper an otherwise compelling central story. But nitpicking aside this is one of Argento's more digestible efforts in spite of the corniest, hair-metaliest Goblin score of all time.
Swimming in infernal Technicolor imagery and glorious, gory set pieces, Argento's "Tenebre" (1982) ranks among his most visually splendid to date. Like "Crystal Plummage," this half-procedural, half-slasher centers on an American crime writer (Anthony Franciosa) who find himself entangled in a murderous web of mystery. Here, a serial killer starts recreating scenes from his fiction. Plenty of beautiful Italian women are hacked to bits in "Tenebre" -- something that Argento does best, even if he can't always string together a coherent story to save his life.
Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, who brilliantly lensed Antonioni's late-career film "The Passenger," floods the frame with bright light, perhaps a first for Argento who tends to lurk in the shadows. All the better to make the blood go pop.