A Classic Horror Story: the preview review

A Classic Horror Story: the preview review

A Classic Horror Story

The canons of the horror genre that cinema has used in recent decades are re-proposed, reworked and overturned in A Classic Horror Story, the new title of the Netflix catalog shot by Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli. "A classic horror film" that sees some people on the road get involved, despite themselves, in a spiral of brutal murders in the shadows of a forest and a disturbing house that hides frightening secrets. But also an opportunity to talk about today's cinema and audiences which, for directors, represent a bold step into the territory of a not too veiled criticism of society. We have previewed A Classic Horror Story and we want to tell you about it here.

A Classic Horror Story: plot and protagonists

Elisa has to go home to the family to stop, under pressure from her mother, an unwanted pregnancy. To do so, she jumps aboard a camper along with other carpoolers: boyfriends Sofia and Mark, the doctor Riccardo and the driver of the camper as well as aspiring director Fabrizio. Together, the five cross the streets of Calabria bordered by dense woods until one night, busy dodging a dying animal in the middle of the road, they crash into a tree.

When they wake up, the five find themselves in a clearing flattened by trees, which delimit it from afar, with a disturbing wooden house in the center. Of the road they were traveling on, no trace. The mismatched group will then take shelter inside the strange house, however this will be for them the beginning of a series of brutal deaths, carried out with ferocity by those who only in appearance are horrible and supernatural beings belonging to the legend: Osso, Mastrosso and Carcagnosso, the phantom founding fathers of the Italian mafia.

Behind the camera of A Classic Horror Story we find Roberto De Feo, in his second title after the acclaimed horror The Nest, from 2019; alongside him, Paolo Strippoli making his feature film debut. Produced by Colorado Film and distributed by Netflix, the film was shot between Puglia and Rome (although set in Calabria) and stars Matilda Lutz, Yuliia Sobol, Will Merrick, Peppino Mazzotta and Francesco Russo as the five unfortunates. As mentioned, however, A Classic Horror Story is not what it seems in appearance and even the protagonists are not exactly who they say they are: using topoi and stereotypes of the genre, the film by De Feo and Strippoli therefore takes us on a journey into the Calabrian hinterland made up of perverse ambitions, hunger and corruption, as well as that widespread voyeurism that today touches us all closely.

How I surprise you with stereotypes

Right from the title it is a real declaration of intent, A Classic Horror Story puts on the plate known elements of horror cinema and borrows them without too many preambles, making the viewer believe that they are faced with a sequence of clichés. Young people traveling who find themselves in a disturbing house in a wood, as was the case in Sam Raimi's House. The figure with the face covered by a frightening mask that brutally kills the unfortunates, in the same way that Mike Myers acted in Halloween (the collection available for purchase here) or Jason in Friday the 13th. The sacrifice of human lives as a brutal tradition: how can we not think of Ari Aster's Midsommar or Neil LaBute's The Chosen One, complete with a human-like puppet? Not to mention the chilling sound of a siren that unequivocally recalls that of the siren present in the film version of Silent Hill, or the presence of young and attractive scream queens who are hunted down in a large part of genre cinema.

Even one of the protagonists in the opening bars of what promises to be a real nightmare, declares that all of them are inside the "classic horror film", in what is perhaps the first trace of the metaphilmic turn that will take A Classic Horror Story with the unfolding of its plot. De Feo and Strippoli's film then unfolds before our eyes, with stereotypes and clichés, like a real, pleasant surprise. Because if it is true that the settings are somehow reminiscent of the American forests in which high spirited young people enter, only to die by being killed; if it is true that houses and masked guys are the masters throughout the film; it is also true that A Classic Horror Story uses all this to insert unexpected components: the folkloristic one and the aforementioned metaphilmic one.

Fishing in Italian folklore, A Classic Horror Story thus makes use of the legend of the three brothers who in ancient times they were imprisoned on the island of Favignana: Osso, Mastrosso and Carcagnosso, often used to explain the origins of the Mafia, 'Ndrangheta and Camorra and legitimize the phantom "noble" intentions of the three knights. They are the "monsters" who increasingly shut the five unsuspecting travelers in the claustrophobic house to make them their victims, thus becoming the new Mike, Jason and Freddy in an underground Calabria made up of peasants who demand flesh and blood. An element, the one inserted by the directors, which with audacity and courage shows the widespread connivance of certain territories for what it really is: a criminal act that favors corruption and murders.

We will not go into the merits of possible spoilers, however A Classic Horror Story does so much more. Its clichés and stereotypes, as well as the folk elements, form the basis for what comes as an unexpected metaphor on cinema in general and on Italian cinema in particular, with a veiled critical note on the lack of audacity in some cases. However, the film by De Feo and Strippoli is also a reflection on the ever growing need of the public to see deaths and murders, which translates into the unbridled use of crime news or simply watching, cell phone in hand, the suffering of those who is in trouble. All this contributes to making the film make that leap in quality that makes it so original and enjoyable while remaining in the field of what has already been seen (in a fully conscious way).

Frightening symmetries, chilling songs

The horror genre fans could move their steps towards A Classic Horror Story with uncertainty, finding themselves faced with an Italian title that seems to enter the horror world with shyness. On the contrary, however, the film by Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli knows what he wants and proves it not only with an original screenplay, but also with an exceptional photography that, if on the one hand makes the dark and opaque wood tones his own, from the the other lights up with red neon lights that herald moments of maximum ferocity. The studied and geometric symmetries of scenes which, by contrast, instead tell chaos and death, often with the house recalling a star as their fulcrum, contribute to creating atmospheres of unconscious restlessness.

An applause certainly goes to the column sound curated by Massimiliano Mechelli, who also in this case creates a chilling contrast with the accompanying scenes. In addition to the aforementioned sirens that build an atmosphere of frightening urgency, songs of the Italian tradition are used in large part: a striking example of all, Era una Casa Molto Carina, by Sergio Endrigo, which is the background to perhaps one of the most splatter of the whole movie. A sore point is represented by the sound of the dialogues, which are sometimes difficult to understand, however the extensive use of southern accents and dialects is one more step towards an original and impactful narrative. Beyond small hitches, A Classic Horror Story still does its dirty job: it entertains the viewer, surprising them thanks to unexpected metaphilmic plot twists, with the merit of making explicit those metaphors about society that are sometimes overshadowed by monsters and blood, despite the authors' intentions.

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