"Christ, that woman gave me the creeps. This is a weird situation."
American film director Alex Ritt (Rick Gianasi) is mourning the death of his girlfriend, who was the third of five victims of the "Video Killer" - a serial murderer who hacked his victims with a machete, videotaped the bodies and sent the tapes to the police. Eager for a change of scenery, Alex accepts a job from his friend Daniel (Leo Daniel) to make a music video in Rome for pop singer Stefania Stella (Stefania Stella). But old memories resurface when the women around him are brutally murdered one by one as he helplessly watches and eerie videos of the crime scenes are delivered to the police. In his anxious state, Alex is hallucinating visions and voices of the victims... or is he seeing ghosts? Did the killer follow Alex to Rome or is a copycat murdering these women? Can he and his friends get the answers they need at a seance? And can Alex convince American investigator Professor Robinson (Donald Pleasence) that he's not the killer?
Fatal Frames (which is sometimes audaciously called Susperia 2000) is a messy, poorly-rendered homage to Dario Argento. Story elements of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red are crammed together and shot in a weak imitation of Susperia's color-soaked cinematography. It takes more than a couple of lens filters and a handful of gels to get Argento's look right. You can't fault director/composer Al Festa for his ambition and his choice of inspiration, but the final product is a poorly shot, badly written, terribly-acted muddy-sounding mess.
- Fatal Frames is Donald Pleasence's last screen credit.
- Besides Donald Pleasence, you many recognize familiar faces in the smaller roles - Alida Valli (Susperia), Angus Scrimm (Phantasm), Ugo Pagliai (The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) and Geoffrey Copleston (Perversion Story) all make appearances.
- The movie does make a decent travelogue of Rome, taking us to popular tourist sites like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. I only wish the movie would ditch the characters and explore the ruins of the Forum instead.
- At the end of the movie is the security guard in the building's foyer dead or was he knocked unconscious? Based on the movie's disappointing resolution, I'm pretty sure he was just knocked out, so I didn't include him in the body count above.
What the Hell am I Watching?
In his final scene of the movie (and his final scene ever on film), Donald Pleasence phones the police from the airport, telling them that he has to leave town because an old case has re-opened. He then walks into the distance to the theme from John Carpenter's Halloween. This is the best moment in the entire movie.
The seance scene is crazy. Alex, Daniel and Stefania go to an opulent palazo lit only by candles (for some reason) where a fancy formal party is taking place. The whole situation gives off a weird Eyes Wide Shut vibe. They meet a blind psychic Countess (Alida Valli) before winding through a maze of rooms to consult with the medium.
Let's talk about that cemetery scene. In a story thread that leads absolutely nowhere, Alex searches out the grave of a mysterious artist and meets a scowling priest (Angus Scrimm), who starts shouting and ranting... and then disappears without warning. That whole segment is bonkers.
Fatal Frames was released in 1996 but the look is pure 1988. Long ponytails, luxurious shoulder-length hairdos, loose-fitting, unbuttoned blouses billowing in the breeze, tight light-washed jeans... and that's just the guys.
Everyone looks like Fabio. Or the saxophone player in The Lost Boys. Also, here's a shot of Stefania's costume for her music video.
Guys, can you get out of the way? You're ruining my view of the Colosseum.