The giallo is so intrinsically tied to the Italian cultural milieu of the 1960s, '70s and '80s that it's not surprising that almost all of the modern attempts to revive the genre have fizzled. Even recent attempts by some of the form's previous masters (Argento and De Palma) have flopped pretty miserably. These films were so much a product of time and place that to try and reproduce them now almost always comes off as cringingly artificial.
No surprise then that the two best 21st century gialli - Amer and The Editor - both succeed because they take the familiar tropes, imagery and music of the genre and reshape the formula to create something fresh. As for Amer, although it has all the trappings, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's film isn't really a giallo in the traditional sense at all. Rather, it's an art film that takes the genre's tendency towards style over substance to its extreme, using its visuals and music to create an experience that's more sensory and emotive than it is thrilling and titillating. It was a daring gamble, and Amer is all the more interesting for it*.
With The Editor, Astron-6's approach is (of course) the polar opposite. Rather than high-minded art wankery, Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy go the unabashedly lowbrow route, upping the ante on the sex, gore and music to the nth degree. The result is pure exploitation bliss: a glorious explosion of sweaty flesh, gushing blood, creaking leather, flashing steel and pumping synth beats. The Editor is the real deal, the most entertaining giallo sleaze-fest in 20 years.
It may seem unlikely that the best giallo in decades is an all out spoof of the genre, but its success lies in the way that Brooks and Kennedy treat the material. They don't pander to mainstream audiences whose previous exposure may begin and end at a casual TV viewing of Dressed to Kill (although many of the gags are very broad, a lot of the film's humour would fly well over the heads of the uninitiated). This is a love letter by and for the hardcore fans, a perfect balance of parody tempered with genuine love and respect for the films it's sending up. As ridiculous as things get in The Editor, there are moments throughout that could easily pass as believable clips from a real giallo. One of the things that lends it such an air of respectful authenticity is the way the convoluted narrative follows the same nonsensical dream logic that's such a cornerstone of many of the original movies. By the end of the film you have that same trippy feeling of having woken out of a dream (albeit one that you laughed your ass off through).
As impressive as the blood-letting is here, the thing that really stands out is the sheer amount of sleazy nudity and sex. The Editor rides the thin line between spoofing misogyny and being guilty of it itself pretty precariously, but personally I thought it was all hilariously funny and tastefully done. The women who disrobed for this movie are all great sports**, and it's all in the service of laughing at how idiotically stupid the machismo and sexism of '60s and '70s cinema could be.
As to the actual performances beyond the physical requirements, the whole cast does a great job of acting terribly, getting it just right so as to not overdo it. Everyone's bad line reading and emoting is just underplayed enough to be funny instead of hammy, and the dubbed dialogue is spot on, again, not too hammy. Udo Kier turns up in characteristically creepy form, and Paz de la Huerta is just deliciously weird in every second of her screen time. Most impressive though is Human Centipede veteran Laurence R. Harvey, showing real chops and charisma here.
However, where The Editor truly soars is in its visuals and score. It looks amazing, far more impressive than what you'd expect from a budget of aprox 150,000. The prerequisite splashes of primary colour really pop off the screen; the set dressing is great; and the handsomely framed 2.35:1 cinematography is often beautiful (if sometimes obviously making fun of the hyper stylised nature of giallo aesthetics). Most impressive of all are some vfx sequences that are real eye openers. The score is a killer orgy of synthwave bangers from the likes of Carpenter Brut ("Le Perv" provides one of the film's most pulse-pounding moments), Vercetti Technicolor and Hook Lab (I think Claudio Simonetti may have contributed something as well).
Brooks and Kennedy fill the movie with an avalanche of fun references and homages. As well as all the expected giallo references, there are nods to Videodrome (a little on the nose that one maybe?); Argento's Three Mothers trilogy; and a subtle reference to Stuart Gordon's From Beyond. The big surprise is that in the end The Editor is much a loving homage to Fulci's The Beyond as it is to gialli. There are three major nods to it throughout the movie, and one in particular had me grinning from ear to ear. There's also a pleasing little meta touch during the end credits, when the editor's name is revealed to be Rey Ciso (the film's fictional Editor, its actual editor is Brooks), timed to coincide with a sinister music cue. Very nicely done.
Every aspect of the production is top notch, not least of which is the gorgeous promotional art provided by some of today's hottest poster artists, including Akiko Stehrenberger, Gary Pullin, Justin Erickson and Graham Humphreys (who also painted a trio of killer faux posters for the film). Feast your eyes below.
Astron-6 really nailed this one. The Editor is a funny, gory, sleazy and stylish good time that I just can't recommend highly enough. Get it from Shout! Factory here.
*Cattet and Forzani's followup - The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears - didn't live up to the promise of Amer. Still beautiful to look at, but a bit of a chore to sit through.
**Surprisingly, the usually perpetually naked Paz de la Huerta reveals the least flesh here.