Q&A With the Masters of Italian Horror

The future of horror conventions is in serious trouble. There will always be horror and films to celebrate but today’s horror films have NOTHING on geriatric cinema and the works of Italian filmmakers like Mario Bavam Lamberto Bava, Dario Argento, Ruggero Deodato, Lucio Fulci, and Umberto Leniz. I fear for what the future of horror film-making has in store for us once these guys are gone. It’s special to me because of the dying art of the video nasty covers and how forbidden it once was to own a copy. Cover art and controversy mean very little these days. Everyone was so star struck over The Walking Dead cast coming to Texas Frightmare Weekend. I was star struck of Bava, Deodato, and Stivaletti! This was a dream come true for a hard core horror fan like myself. One of the audience members pointed out the fact that Cannibal Holocaust was the beginning of found footage films and Americans owe a great deal of gratitude to the Italians because of the found footage craze going on today. Honestly, I don’t even like the found footage films. I think Paranormal Activity, The Tunnel, Megan is Missing, and Blair Witch are some of the worst films I have ever seen. Cannibal Holocaust blew all of those films out of the water. My camera could only film so much and my hands were shaky so I wont be adding the video on here, only pictures but I’m betting someone will add the entire thing to You Tube. Before I get into the Q&A with these gentlemen, let me give you a detailed description for the three in case you are not familiar with their work.

Lamberto Bava is the prodigy of the legendary Mario Bava, who was responsible for Black Sunday, Twitch of the Dead Nerve, Kill Baby Kill, and Blood and Black Lace. Not only was he an incredibly skilled director and writer, he was a remarkable cinematographer. Lamberto followed in his father’s foot steps, starting off as his father’s personal assistant. Demons is without a doubt the most commercial and successful film on his list but Macabre remains my favorite. He was happy to hear about how Macabre actually gave me nightmares quite recently. I fell asleep during the film and the little girl in that movie was so terrifying, I actually woke up scared. I’m sure he heard a lot of “Demons this” and “Demons that” so I wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed his other work. This autographed photo of Macabre will fit in nicely with the others and I did have him sign my copy of Demons. I am actually looking for a copy of his “Blade in the Dark” on VHS if anyone is selling.

Ruggero Deodato is known for Last Cannibal World, House on the Edge of the Park, and the notorious Cannibal Holocaust. Cannibal Holocaust is without a doubt one of the most shocking films ever made due to the graphic violence and strong imagery. It’s influential to the new found footage craze happening in todays horror films. Ruggero was actually arrested on obscenity charges and charged for making a snuff film. During the Q&A he explained to us that he told his actors to go into hiding which may have sparked all the rumors that the actors were actually killed on camera. These were sensitive times with Mary Whitehouse and the Video Nasty hysteria. Even though he was able to bring some of the actors to court to show they were alive, and he was cleared of charges, the film remained banned in Italy and several other countries. The film features rape, horrific acts of violence, and the death of seven real animals. People are still so shocked about the killing of these animals, especially the turtle. In one scene, the actors are cutting the shell off of a real, live turtle and one of the actors is actually vomiting during this scene. This didn’t shock me as much as it would had it been a puppy or a kitten. Animals are slaughtered everyday for consumption and survival. Cannibal Holocaust is a good example of civilized society and Ruggero should be praised for his work instead of shunned by the lesser intelligent. He enjoys making films that are about the real horrors in the world and that’s what makes him a brilliant filmmaker.

Sergio Stivaletti is one of the most skilled special effects artists of Italian cinema that has collaborated with Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, and Michele Soavi. Some of his most celebrated works are featured in films such as; Demons, Demons II, Opera, Cemetery Man, The Wax Mask, and Mother of Tears. Recently, I payed close attention to the detail in his work for Demons, The Church, and Mother of Tears and I was quite impressed with how realistic his art came off. The Church especially was appealing to the eye and even though I was not a fan of Mother of Tears, that scene where the woman is being strangled with her own insides made me cringe. He did spend a little time discussing his favorite effect on Demons, which was Geretta Geretta’s transformation into a demon. This seems to be the most celebrated special effects sequence in the film. Below is a photo John Torrani sent me of Sergio wearing a Mister Fister t-shirt!

Now lets get down to it. Their translator began the Q&A, asking about the beginning of Lamberto Bava’s career and how his father, Mario Bava, had influenced him. Lamberto established that his father wasn’t the main reason why he got into horror films. He simply liked horror movies ‘too much.’ When asking Ruggero about making a film that is banned and forbidden, Ruggero explained that he is mostly sorry. He is mostly sorry because his work is being downloaded every day, millions of times, and he didn’t receive a dime for that. Not one cent. As someone who is on the fence with the idea of downloading movies and watching them for free, I really felt for Ruggero. A member of the audience explained that they wanted to buy the movie but couldn’t. I am sure everyone and their mother did have a bootleg copy of this film until it was made available for the public. I hope present day sales for the Cannibal Holocaust DVD have increased. According to IMDB, the estimated budget on the film was $100, 000. The only information I could find as to how much the film actually grossed was $133, 432, 635 in Spain 1999. I will say that I am a proud owner of the DVD and I never illegally downloaded the film. The last question the translator asked was about the beginning of Sergio’s career working with Dario Argento on Phenomena. Sergio shortly explained that it was his first film as a professional make-up artist.

The three described which films inspired the most as children and I found their answers to be comical and mindful. Bava named the film Bambi because the mother gets shot. He said when she gets shot, he ran out of the moves screaming. From that moment on, he wanted to make horror movies to take revenge. I wonder how many times he tells that story. For Sergio, his father use to take him to see Westerns. At home, he would play with GI Joe’s and turn them into a ‘prehistoric man’ of some sorts. I couldn’t quite makeup what he was saying but he claims that this was his first ‘prop.’ Ruggero’s answer was a little more serious. One of his close friends was Renzo Rossellini, which is the son of Roberto Rossellini. Ruggero explained that the film “Germany Year Zero” directed by Rossellini was shocking and horrifying to him because the story is about a kid trying to provide for his family after the devastation of World War II. The kid commits suicide after he finds out his sister is a prostitute. It reached Ruggero’s heart.  As for films that shocked the gentlemen, Bava is sticking with Bambi again. Ruggero chose Pascal Laurgier’s Martyrs of all films. He saw the film at a festival in Rome and everyone started to walk out of the theater. He too was shocked but had to stay and he claims that Laurgier is a friend of his. He found the ending to be very shocking and I agree with the man. That French film was pretty deep and there are several ways you can interpret the ending. He further explained that the audience was not the typical horror audience so they weren’t use to that sort of thing and torture especially. He was invited back to London after 30 years of Cannibal Holocaust being banned and for the first time, his fans weren’t covered in piercings and they weren’t the kind that was into horror films. In case you haven’t noticed, Ruggero is not what you would assume to be a ‘goth’ or a ‘Satanist.’ He’s a normal man that wears blue, button up shirts and sweaters. I can only imagine how happy he is about having regular fans. For Sergio, he says that the animal torture scenes in Cannibal Holocaust were shocking for him because he likes rats, but he was also laughing so I don’t know how serious he was even though he did say that seeing it on film WAS shocking. The Exorcist was another film that shocked him.

A lot of the audience members kept wanting to ask questions about Cannibal Holocaust. Ruggero spent some time talking about the magnificent score and they laughed as four mistakes in the film were pointed out. When asked in terms of Cannibal Holocaust, how difficult was it working with the actual natives, Ruggero spent a lot of time explaining the natives and their actions. I’m betting he gets asked this a lot. He says he searched around for the perfect tribe and he came across a very intelligent and civilized tribe and became good friends with the Chief. The Chief was always imitating Ruggero and the Indians were always imitating the Chief because that is their way of communicating. It’s just like working with animals.

The last question and answers I got on film was which films they were happiest with and which was the most difficult. Lamberto says he is mostly happy with Demons because 30 years later it’s still successful and people are still talking about it. Ruggero said the most difficult film was The Last Cannibal World and Cannibal Holocaust was the easiest. Unfortunately, my video cuts off with Sergio’s answer but I am pretty sure he said he was the most happy with his work in Demons.

It made me so happy that I was able to meet these gentlemen and get some answers to my questions. They seemed to be extremely happy with the fact that I was pregnant. Ruggero walked around with a tiny camera, filming everything and he pulled it out with glee as soon as I approached his booth. He spent a few seconds recording me and my stomach. If only I had more time to spend with the gentlemen. Unfortunately, when you’re 8 months pregnant, there’s only so much you can do at horror conventions. It’s all very tiring. I am just happy I got to be there!