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 Thread Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.
Old 10-05-2004, 03:40 PM
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Default Fatal Frames




Reviewer: Jeremy
Review Date: June 10, 2001

Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 2/27/2001
MSRP: $29.98
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No



The Story

inline Image For two years, film director Alex Ritt (Rick Gianasi) has lived with the pain of his wifeís murder. She was brutally killed in their New York apartment by a crazed maniac who chopped off her head and videotaped her bloodied corpse. The killer, who did in four other women in the same manner, has yet to be caught. One day Alex is visited by his friend Daniel Antonucci (Leo Daniel), who shows him a music video starring his girlfriend Steffania (Steffania Stella), who has become a major pop music sensation in Italy, and is now hoping to make it big in America. He offers Alex $100,000 to come to Rome and shoot her next music video, and Alex gladly accepts.

inline Image When he arrives in Rome, Daniel and Steffania show him around the studio where heís going to be working. He meets Rebecca (Veronica Logan), an American dancer who is going to be appearing in the video. The two hit it off and Rebecca offers to give him a tour of Rome that night, and tells him to meet her at one of the cityís landmarks. Alex shows up at the appointed time, and sees Rebecca beckoning to him and running away. He follows her, only to be caught behind a locked gate with the girl on the other side. Heís horrified to then see a figure dressed in black brutally slash her to death. Alex runs and finds some policemen, but when the cops go back to the scene with him they canít find a body, or even a shred of physical evidence. Commisioner Bonelli (David Warbeck) suggests that he may have been the victim of a joke, or imagined it.

inline Image The police donít doubt him for long, though, because the next morning they get a bizarre call from a person talking about how they slashed up a girlís body. They trace the call to a nearby phonebooth, and although they find nobody in it, they do discover a videotape wrapped around the phone cord. When they examine the tape, they are shocked to see that it shows Rebeccaís dead body. However, when they try to interview Alex again about what happened, they find him strangely uncooperative. Could he have been more than just an witness to the crime?

inline Image That night, Steffania and Daniel take Alex to a gathering at the home of Countess Mirafiori (Alida Valli), a bizarre old women who shuns all forms of modern technology. The three participate in a seance conducted by a girl named Tamara (Nina Soldano). During the seance, they suddenly witness an apparition of Rebecca, who appears before them and accuses Alex of murdering her. Alex gets pissed and accuses Tamara of trying to frame him. Later that night he gets a call from Tamara, who asks him to meet her at the Colliseum. He shows up just in time to see her being brutally murdered by the same assailant who killed Rebecca.

inline Image The police get another videotape, this time showing Tamaraís dead body, but again., thereís no physical evidence at the crime scene. Bonelli consults the FBI, who send him a file on the "video killer" who had terrorized New York, killing Alexís wife and the other women. They also send Professor Robinson (Donald Pleasance), a crime expert who had worked on the American case. Robinson has always believed that Alex was behind the American killings, but has never been able to find enough evidence to bring him to trial. Robinson, Commisioners Bonelli and Valenti (Ugo Paglia) and Dr. Lucidi (Rossano Brazzi), a judge assigned to the case, discuss the possibliity that the American video killer may have crossed continents, or that it may be a copycat.

inline Image Alex tries to leave the country, but the authorities wonít let him. The situation is further complicated by the arrival of Richard Fairbrain (Geoffrey Copleston), Alexís father-in-law, who is also convinced that Alex is the killer. Not only that, but Fairbrain seems to know Steffania from somewhere else. Alex continues to be terrorized by the mysterious "video killer", who takes several more victims and Commissioner Bonelli and the police scramble to solve the mystery...

After hearing a lot of negative things about Fatal Frames, I was expecting a complete turkey and was none too enthusiastic when I finally sat down to watch it. I was surprised to find that the film itself wasnít as bad as Iíd expected, although itís still far from a classic. Director Al Festa shows an incredible sense for visual composition, with lots of weird blue and red lighting effects, mist, fog and atmosphere, complimented by some great camerawork and music. David Warbeck is really fun to watch as Commisioner Bonelli, as are Rossano Brazzi and Donald Pleasance, both in their final roles (although regrettably Pleasance didnít live long enough to loop his dialogue and is dubbed over by another actor), plus there are brief roles for other famous horror personalities like Angus Scrimm and Linnea Quigley. Unfortunately, Fatal Frames is just way too long for itís own good. The filmís English-language TV spot describes the movie as a "never-ending thriller", a description which Iíd have trouble disagreeing with. At over two hours, Festa canít seem to get up enough steam to keep it moving, and since pacing is so important to a giallo film, itís an especially big problem. The plot is also very convoluted and doesn't make a whole lot of sense at many times. Festa definitely seems like heís aspiring to be the next Argento, and he shows quite a bit of talent in this film, but overall it just doesnít make the cut. Iíd recommend Fatal Frames for those who are deeply into giallo cinema, although for the average viewer there are plenty of other better thrillers out there.

Image Quality

inline Image Fatal Frames is presented letterboxed at 1.85:1, and is not enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Overall the movie looks pretty good, as should be the case, considering how new it is. Clarity and detail are very nice, and there are no noticeable print defects, with only the very lightest grain visible. Colors, with one exception (more on that in a minute) looked great. However, there are several problems which caused me to take note. The first is that the brightness level on the movie seemed to be turned up way too high at times, causing blacks too look overly grayish and the general image to appear a hazy and washed out. This is especially noticeable during daylight exterior scenes. At first I thought it was just a problem with my display settings, but after watching parts of the film on my DVD-ROM, I can definitely say this is a problem with the transfer itself, and it can be distracting. The second problem with the transfer is less severe, but still annoying - the far-out blue lighting schemes that Festa uses during many parts of the film come on a bit oversaturated, wiping out some of the subtle detail in those scenes.

Sound

The soundtrack is in Dolby 2.0 Stereo. It sounds good, with decent range and no distortion. Understanding dialogue is not an issue, and the filmís music and sound effects come on strong. No subtitles or alternate language tracks are provided.

Supplemental Material

inline Image The supplements here are extensive. First of all ,we get a commentary track with Steffania Stella, Al Festa, journalist Claudio Fallagno, and Lesley LePenner, who narrates the filmís theatrical trailer. The commentary is somewhat or a surreal experience, complete with eerie music and effects laid over the talking. The group struggles with their English at times, but nonetheless manages to keep up a constant banter. Although itís not a terribly informative track, it is entertaining, and theyíre obviously quite proud of the film and have a lot of enthusiasm for it.

Next up are four music videos, directed by none other than Al Festa. The videos themselves are nothing special; the songs arenít very good, and a couple of them have pretty cheesy production values to boot. But they are kinda funny. And while weíre on the subject of music videos, also included are the complete versions of "Alibi", "Eternal City" and "Pensamiento Estupendo", three godawful Steffania Stella videos that are featured in the finished film.

Sixteen minutes of deleted scenes have also been included on this release. The scenes explain a few minor plot holes in the film, but frankly, itís better that they stayed out of the finished cut, since they would have slowed the film down even more. One of the deleted scenes will be of interest to Donald Pleasance fans, since it features him delivering his lines in his real voice, instead of the wholly inappropriate voice that he was dubbed over with.

A "making-of" featurette is included as well, which, despite being a blatant promotional piece for the film, is still rather interesting, mainly for itís behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and some detailed footage of how some of the special effects were put together. Finally, we get talent bios for most of the cast.

Final Thoughts

Although not the worst giallo thriller I've ever seen, Fatal Frames definitely isn't the best one, either. The movie has some good aspects, but it just can't compare to classics of the genre. Synapse's DVD release gives the film a nice video presentation, a good audio one, and a great presentation in the supplemental department. If you're a big fan of giallo films, you'll want to give Fatal Frames a glance, and if you like it, there's no reason why you shouldn't pick up this release.

Rating

Movie - C
Image Quality - B
Sound - A-
Supplements Ė A

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 19 Chapter Stops
  • English 2.0 Stereo
Supplements
  • Commentary track
  • Al Festa music videos
  • Steffania Stella music videos
  • Deleted scenes
  • "Making-of" featurette
  • Trailers
  • Talent bios
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