Back in 1998 (or so) I heard about this upcoming slasher flick, directed by the same man who brought us “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (1997), and starring none other than big time A-lister Sylvester Stallone alongside such veterans as Kris Kristofferson, Robert Patrick and Tom Berenger. Described as a combination of thrills and slasher elements from the likes of “Friday the 13th” with a setting that reminded you of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” (with a nod to The Overlook Hotel); my interest was piqued and then some.
On March 23rd Mr. Larry Cohen passed away at the age of 82. A true auteur who left behind bucket loads of writing credits in a career than spanned five decades and along the way he directed a few gems. Always very witty but also concocting some truly original horror and suspense stories; Cohen’s legacy will live on with genre aficionados all over the world.
Arguably his greatest contribution to the horror genre was a trilogy of films concerning mutant baby monsters in the “It’s Alive” threesome. Cohen’s writing was spot on when it came to every parent’s fear of a child’s possible abnormality, society’s fear of all kinds of human made chemicals interfering with what Mother Nature intended and mankind’s cluelessness when it has to deal with something very different from them. Director Cohen also infused these semi-exploitation mutant movies with very adult and heartfelt drama and elicited some top-notch performances that really legitimized the material beyond B-movie schlock horror.
“Opera” is fairly giallo-esque with the black gloved killer, his black hood and preferred use of a knife but Argento basically uses the story as a springboard for some over the top set-pieces, wild and horrific imagery laced with bombastic music ranging from sweet ballads to famous opera numbers to heavy metal, tons of images of ravens and some incredible camera acrobatics.
A classic in the slasher movie cycle but completely dependent on mood and old fashioned suspense instead of blood and gore; “When a Stranger Calls” is in many ways a trend setter but differs from most slashers with it’s emphasis on the killer’s psychological state and the detective who’s hunting him.