When Shadow was released in 2009 I declared that Federico Zampaglione had become the new horror maestro, his story of complete terror in an unknown location was both terrifying, and a piece of art to boot. Now in Tulpa he attempts to revive the much-loved Giallo genre, but does he succeed?
In a car park in a more remote part of the city lies the sex club Tulpa, Tulpa is more than just a club, it’s a state of mind; a place where sex is the tool used to reach a better place of europhia. Lisa is a regular visitor to Tulpa, she finds the mix of spiritualism and casual sex works well against her busy lifestyle. It seems however that someone has a problem with how Lisa lives her life, and with each coupling she becomes engaged in, someone must die. As the killing picks up pace, and Lisa’s work life gets more stressful, she breaks the rules of Tulpa in order to secure the safety of her most recent lover.
Tulpa is a beautifully shot, for the most part well performed addition to Italian cinema, most importantly it does what it intends to do, it remains faithful to the Giallo mentality, and breathes life back into a pretty much dead area of the horror/thriller genres. Zampaglione even goes as far to bring back the traditional Giallo killer, a dark shadowy figure, with face covered, black hat, and those leather gloves and Giallo fan loves to see.
This is very much a match of two halves, the first part if the movie is spend building the story, developing the characters, and giving its audience a big enough body count to thrill them. A combination of the epic score by Francesco Zampaglione, and Federico’s beautiful eye for scenery, and the perfect view make this 2012 addition to the genre blend seamlessly with the existing catalogue of movies. But in the same way he did with Shadow he brings something new to the table, most notably the presence of the shaman type character Kirum played with precise creepiness by Nuot Arquint (Shadow).
There is a catalogue of great death sequences in the movie, death by barbed wire (and merry go round), boiling fat, and an S&M scene that will make your eyes bulge. All the deaths are delivered in typical Giallo style, a little bit long winded, very elaborate, and in some levels quite funny.
The movie received its world premier at the 2012 Frighfest, and as I write this less than 12 hours after it’s screening, there is much friction about the movie. Many have taken to the Internet enraged at what they have seen. This is going to be Tulpa’s biggest issue, and while some points made by other critics are valid, this does need some explanation.
Regardless of what anyone thinks, there has NEVER been a particularly well-acted Italian Giallo movie. A combination of the language barrier, and often dubbing, combined with the overall cheapness of many of these productions has blighted the genre since its real inception during the 1960’s. The classic, well respected Giallo films are made classic because something visual gives them their power, Tulpa has this same power, visually and story wise this is a stunning movie.
What is driving its critics however (many of whom have either never seen a Giallo film, or are too vacant minded to remember the poor performances or dubbing) is the addition of the character Joanna. Joanna (unfortunately I cannot find the actresses’ name) is played by someone who is clearly not English, but playing the role of an English person. The actress has tried to channel some level of Britishness, and failed miserably. Between the actions, and the dialogue the character by English person speaking standard is not up to scratch. However for a character in a what should be a foreign language movie, trying to deliver an English language product, this performance is no different to any random actor in any random Giallo.
Tulpa does suffer slightly from one performance, it is also a little bit overlong in its final quarter, however it’s a well constructed (as a whole), well executed delivery, that pumps brand new life blood into the genre, and proves that with advances in technology, the Giallo movie does have a place in our current society. But any movie has it’s teething troubles, especially when trying to bring something classic to a modern audience, say what you will about Tulpa, compare it to classic Giallo movies, and you’ll see that Tulpa compares very well to the classic Giallo, in years to come this will be viewed as a classic, and a point in which Giallo turned a corner.