Friday, June 10, 2011

Torso (1973)

Make Room For Giallo!

Whether you like the film or not, Sergio Martino's 1973 giallo, Torso, is a landmark film in the horror genre. A year before Black Christmas was released, this erotic Italian horror film (aren't they all erotic, though?) utilized the first-person, masked killer motif which some claim to have been the inspiration for Halloween as well. While I may not fully agree with these assumptions, it's hard to ignore Torso's impact on the genre, with enough suspense, gore, and T&A to have definitely turned the heads of many then-future directors.

The film follows a group of sexy college coeds who are living amongst a vicious killer. With students dropping like flies, the police inform the college of the murderer on the loose, only offering up one clue: a red and black scarf that was used to strangle the victim. When one of the girls receives a threatening phone call from the killer, who believes she knows his true identity, she and her friends decide to get out of town and stay in a remote countryside villa owned by her uncle (always a good idea, right?). Unfortunately for our busty vixens, the killer has common sense and follows them up to their hideaway where cat-and-mouse antics ensue until the true murderer is revealed in a tense finale.

So while Torso sees a common plot amongst its genre, does its forerunner status work? To an extent, yes. The film is chock full of red herrings, nearly to the point of frustration. Everyone has their lustful eyes on the girls, with menacing and stoic expressions that lead you to believe anyone can be the killer. On an interesting note, none of the actors in the film were told the identity of the killer until they neared the end of production, a cue films like Scream have taken to prevent leaks spoiling the film before it's released to theaters. While you do find out who the killer is, their motive is very weak and uninspired, which may leave you disappointed or less than awe-struck.

I can only assume that the film is called Torso (aside from the fact that a couple of bodies are knifed and sawed through the chest) due to its gratuity display of tits at every corner. Believe me, I'm not complaining, so if you like a bit of T&A in your films, this is definitely one for the books. Every character but one shows off the goods, and the film teeters (titters?) on the edge of full frontal nudity so many times, that you may pull your hair out in frustration. There's also a mild lesbian scene between two characters that is motherfucking goddamn interrupted by the killer as are most scenes in the film involving nudity or sex.

The violence is what you would expect from an early 70s horror film, with blade penetration and eye gouges performed on discolored paper mache body substitutes as well as thick, red paint-colored blood flowing at the bit. Aside from knifings and strangulations, there are some subtle dismemberment scenes that were probably the cause for the film's banning in many countries, but compared to today's constant lust for gore, it's very tame.

The highlight of the film is its suspenseful third act, which finds the sole survivor stuck in the house with the killer who isn't aware of her presence. While the killer comes in and out to hack up the remains of his victims, our protagonist does what she can to stay quiet but still alert others for help or escape her room, utilizing the "push the key out of the lock onto newspaper and slide it under the door" technique that I was already yelling at her to do. Unfortunately for her, it doesn't go as planned, but the result is pretty fucking hilarious, though I'm sure it was unintentional at the time.

With typical giallo suspense, red herrings out the wazoo, constant nudity, and some fun gore for its time, Torso deserves a round of applause by fans of the slasher genre. Without it, we may have missed out on a handful of our favorite horror films, or perhaps they would've been a tad uninspired, but Torso definitely has its roots firmly planted as the inspiration for many of our favorite slashers. Because of that, I suggest any horror fan who hasn't seen it to check it out and see if it lives up to the fan favorite films it inspired. It's the least you could do.

3/5 Stars

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