Mad in Italy didn’t necessarily present itself to me as though it would be anything especially unique which is to say that when the focus of a movie is the kidnapping of a young female, her subsequent torture (mental and physical) and then her battle to escape and stay alive, well, let’s just say that I’ve seen that movie before. The beauty in Paolo Fazzini’s vision of the creation of a British serial killer, inspired by true events, is that it has some powerful performances. It’s raw, but contains some original mind-fuckery that helps to carry a familiar narrative home. That’s not to say it is flawless, but this release through Elite Entertainment is actually something to check out. The moments when I thought I had figured out how to emotional accept the worst our kidnapper had come to offer were the moments when he would trick me. Mad in Italy surprised me more than once leaving me to feel like a chump but impressed that this movie could get my goat.
The story follows a young psychopath, fresh out of a job trying to find his place in the world (or so you’ll think). You feel sorry for the lead as played by Gianluca Testa. That’s the charm of Mad in Italy. Testa conveys perfect calm through a series of tragic personal events that almost beg sympathy. When he finally shows his true colors by kidnapping an attractive young woman played by Elenora Bolla, you continue to feel sorry for him. You hope that he can find work and regain a piece of his normal life; the life he had before he lost his job and became a criminal… well his normal life is anything but. As the audience begins to realize this our fearless kidnappers “normal” life is actually the daily outings of a cold, sadistic but often playful serial killer. The story develops as our lead presumably looks for a job and tries to fit into a society he can’t hope to be accepted by. With rejection on the docket, a clever mind goes to work with the homemade arsenal of the trade. Nothing extravagant.
Perhaps the opening of the film touched me. It features a not so distant, very real financial crisis that was seen the world over. That’s how the sympathy begins to build for our antagonist. You follow him through the introduction of the worldwide recession of some six years ago, an ongoing peril. Some clever editing and shot choices combined with a montage of the world taking a giant monetary policy shit creates a back drop that breeds desperation. It is familiar to all of us. It resonates in the memory or even in our current daily lives. Once we can commiserate with our future-sadist, you often find yourself trusting him for moments at a time before his true colors emerge. The build and make up of this perfect psychopathy will quickly make you realize that either your gullible or Testa is that good.
The film is shot well though it is clearly an independent production as one might expect given the current filmmaking situation in Italy. Mirco Sgarzi, DOP on House of Flesh and Mannequins (previously featured during Italian Horror Week) and Orgy of Blood does a great job of making this look like a professional production, foreboding, dark and very real. Director and writer Fazzini inspires solid performances from both his leads. Perhaps the only real criticism of this work is the wrap up. Its ending comes off like an Unsolved Mysteries television show finale rather than the proper culmination of a disturbing work. There is very nearly an attempt at modest humor and continuation that doesn’t quite work given the feel of the rest of the picture.
I recommend Mad in Italy to those of you who are looking to understand how Italian Horror has evolved in recent years. This particular film doesn’t follow any of the stereotypical Italian tropes to which you may have become accustomed but rather seems to pull from foreign influence from the features of Europe and the United States in both shooting style and substance.
You can order Mad in Italy now available in Italian with English subtitles. We will also feature a review of Hanging Shadows: Perspectives on Italian Horror Cinema during Italian Horror Week, a documentary by Fazzini that features some very familiar Italian Horror names from the golden age.