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Fatal Frames
Fotogrammi Mortali

Italy 1996
produced by
Stefania Di Giandomenico (= Stefania Stella) for Mediaset, Sail Production
directed by Al Festa
starring Rick Gianasi, Stefania Stella, David Warbeck, Ugo Pagliai, Leo Daniel, Alida Valli, Geoffrey Copleston, Linnea Quigley, Donald Pleasence, Angus Scrimm, Giorgio Albertazzi, Rossano Brazzi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Massimo Pitarello, Marcel Malcoun, Andrea Festa, Nina Soldano, Veronica Logan, Linda Prester, Giorgia Bongianni, Marinella Furgiuele, Mats Hedberg, Valerio Isidori, Cinzia Berni, Giovanna Nodari, Spiwe Sibanda, Andrea Pelosi, Vlad Scolari, Claudio Fuiano, Massimo Lavagnini, Danilo Del Monte, Corrado Lannaioli, Alessandro Bentivegna, Rinaldo Rustico, Costantino Curci, Haria Morasca, Cristina Da Rold, Gloria Maniscalco, Dario Maniscalco, Omero Capanna, Claudia Palmeri, Penny Brown
written by Al Festa, Alessandro Monese, Mary Rinaldi, music by Al Festa, special effects by Steve Johnson

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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On the request of his friend, the producer Dan (Leo Daniel), American film director Alex Ritt (Rick Gianasi) comes to Rome to film the latest videoclip of Stefania Stella (Stefania Stella), an Italian recording artist on the verge of becoming an international pop-sensation. Thing is, apparently Alex has brought with him the Videokiller, a homicidal maniac who back in the States has killed five women, among them Alex' wife, hidden their bodies but sent videotapes about his evil deeds to the police - but while back in the USA the Videokiller killed women at random, it seems here in Rome he kills only those close to Alex, like two dancers (Veronica Logan, Linda Prester) and a tarot card reader (Nina Soldano). What's worse though is that for police inspector Bonelli (David Warbeck), Alex has become the prime suspect, and instead of following other clues, he seems to exclusively investigate his involvement in the whole thing - but he just can't really prove anything ... which - like in all good murder mysteries - forces Alex to do some investigation himself.

Inspector Bonelli meanwhile receives massive help (both wanted and unwanted) from the USA, by the likes of Professor Robinson (Donald Pleasence) and Mr Fairbrain (Geoffrey Copleston), the latter being the stepdad of Alex' dead wife - and it soon becomes clear that pretty much everybody in the USA suspects Alex to be the (stateside) Videokiller as well.

Alex meanwhile has teamed up with a parapsychologist (Linnea Quigley) for his investigations, but before he knows it she is slaughtered as well, and as usual, a videotape is sent to the police - only on this videotape, the shadow of the killer can be seen, and the shadow looks nothing like Alex, which pretty much clears him of any suspicion.

Suddenly, Alex' friend Dan becomes the culprit, and he is almost shot dead. It's only by accident, that Alex finds out that it was actually Stefania who was the Videokiller, but when he wants to confront her he is instead confronted with all the victims the Videokiller has killed in Rome - and he breaks down and confesses he is the original US-Videokiller, and it is also revealed that the Roman victims of teh killer are all alive and well and it was all just an elaborate ploy to make Alex confess, with all the victims plus Stefania being relatives of Alex' victims back in the USA and it all being orchestrated by Alex' own stepdad Fairbrain ...

 

First and foremost, one can't deny that Fatal Frames looks good. All shots are carefully composed, great care is taken with light and colour, and camera setups and movements are most of the time quite accomplished - just like something out of a Dario Argento-movie. Thing is, this is not Dario Argento-movie, and while in Argento's films his elaborate compositions and camerawork is always plot-driven and artistic, here it is just bloodless and derivative - and it's not at all helped by the fact that the film itself quotes a lot of Argento's best films, most prominently Deep Red and Tenebre. That the plot has a few too many twists and turns for its own good and tries much too hard to be clever (which it isn't on close inspection) to remain credible of course doesn't help one bit either, nor does it help that all the lead characters are rather unlikeable. What remains is a bunch of genre veterans (like David Warbeck, Donald Pleasence [in his last film], Linnea Quigley and Angus Scrimm) in bigger and smaller roles who at least put a smile on your face (the funniest scene is actually Donald Pleasence - or rather a stand-in for the then deceased actor - phoning in to say he has to be stateside at Halloween tu reexamine an old case - to a very Halloween-like score) - but that's about it, the film hasn't got much more to go for ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
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directed by
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written by
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out now on DVD