Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Haunting of Helena

The Haunting of Helena [QuickFix]
Directed by: Christian Bisceglia & Ascanio Malgarini
Italy, 2012
Horror, 84min

Single parent. Single, female, parent.  Kind of like the archetype of possessed child flick parent. It’s true, just go check! Anyhow, The Haunting of Helena tells the story of Sophia [Harriet MacMasters-Green], who just got divorced from her hubby and now has moved to Italy with their kid Helena. Needless to say it’s only a matter of minutes before weird shit starts to happen when they move a huge cupboard that they find in the basement up into their flat!
Backstory tells us of a man who brutally tortured his wife and pulls out all her teeth before shoving her in the cupboard to slowly bleed to death… yeah, that cupboard! On the eve of Helena loosing her first tooth, the ghost in the cupboard reveals itself and the movie is off to a raving start... this is why that opening sequence of the creepy cupboard and bloody room was all about, to set this threat up!

The movie shifts into kind of a ghostbusting investigation plot as Sophia tries to figure out what the spirit wants and how to stop it trying from haunting them. But things are never quite as easy as we think they will be. The unexpected spin on the piece I will say is probably due to Bisceglia and Malgarini’s Italian genre heritage. The movie has a bunch of cool effects, some really well timed scares and does a lot with small means, just as Italan genre cinema always does.
One of the most disappointing aspects would be the Tooth-fairy angle on it. The Tooth-fairy being a sinister old bitch out to take souls instead of kiddie teeth is pretty much done! Should have just stayed with the “haunting” angle and used the “tooth-fairy” as a metaphor for the adults skepticism about the hauntings. That would have been cool considering that the Tooth-fairy angle has been done one to many times…

But, what I really liked about this flick is that there was a genuine interest in what they Bisceglia and Malgarini where trying to tell, and do with their story. There’s a lot going on in this film and repeated viewings could probably lead to alternative interpretations… after all Sophia and Helena are in a pretty serious car crash early on in the movie. It’s during her “close encounter with death” that Sophia first see’s the child ghost that figures in one of the several subplots. Just as the strange old man on the top floor, is an intriguing part of the puzzle of subplots that come together in the final act. On several occasions Bisceglia and Malgarini flip the expected scenario on its ass and go off somewhere completely different. So what started off looking as being another mimicry of US conventions actually managed to become something delightfully creepy with an authentic Italian genre aura to it.  You know it will get the job done and that will be satisfying enough!
With that fact at bay there’s quite a lot that I'll let a filmmaker get away with, and I’ll always be more tolerant to genre under those conditions. If nothing else, it’s great to see that there’s still a somewhat active stream of horror themed flicks coming out of Italy and that they are keeping the flame alive! 

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