A Classic Horror Story (2021) contains one of the most satisfying endings your writer has experienced in a long time. But first, the beginning. This Italian film opens with a bloodied woman gagged and tied to a table as Gino Paoli’s Italian-language ballad “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” plays. A cloaked figure drags a large mallet across the floor–never a good sign, right up there with fritzy lights. As the mallet is raised, we cut to an RV driving down a long stretch of road toward a mountain as the music crescendos.

Next, pregnant and abortion-bound Elisa gets a ride through a carpooling app as the RV pulls up. Sweaty and unkempt Fabrizio is the RV driver. He’s a filmmaker documenting the trip. He introduces us to the rest of the riders from the app: Sophia and Mark are on their way to a wedding, and a doctor named Riccardo is going to see his family. Later, a drunk Mark belligerently takes over driving, causing a wreck, and they find themselves off the road in the woods next to what looks like a church.

Great twelve minutes or so. The film is co-directed by Roberto De Feo who directed The Nest or Il Nido (2019) and Paolo Strippoli. They wrote the screenplay along with Lucio Besana, Milo Tissone and David Bellini. Besana received partial writing credit on The Nest, and Bellini is the real powerhouse here with a long resume of Italian-language television shows as writer and a few created by’s, along with directing quite a bit of episodes from these shows.

The rest of the film goes the way of classic folk horror with a bunch of unanswered mysteries and none of these are spoilers. A shrine in the woods with five fresh animal heads representing them and three effigies of god-like figures made of twigs and branches. Historical photos on the wall in the church-like building of people wearing masks of tree bark as if they were taken right off the tree. The door to the church-like building is suddenly open. Once they take refuge in the church, they find a live girl in a cocoon of twigs with her tongue cut out, while three figures outside drag Mark out of the RV. He was injured when the RV crashed. They discover a graveyard of cars from past victims. And there’s much more.

All of the actors have earned healthy resumes in Italian-language tv and film. Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz plays Elisa and has two very interesting works in post- and pre-production, Zone 414 (2021) and Z (comme Z), the former a sci-fi detective flick and the latter a filmmaking crew versus zombies flick. Your writer will keep an eye out for those.

Francesco Russo gives us a brilliantly understated performance as Frabrizio. Russo and director Strippoli appear to be working on something titled Piove, simply translated as “it is raining.” The couple, Sofia and Mark, are played by Yuliia Sobol and Will Merrick, while Peppino Mazzotta plays Riccardo, the doctor. And the Mayor is played by Cristina Donadio. Again–we can’t appreciate this enough–all hard-working actors.

Massimiliano Mechelli provides a great job with a creepy horror score. His past credits include two more horror flicks The Binding (2020) and In the Trap (2019). Let’s keep an eye on him. And the soundtrack is pretty cool too, with the aforementioned Gino Paoli’s Italian-language ballad, along with the punkish “Round Glasses” by Waines, the instrumental jam “Never Trust a Fart” by Bart Fargo, and another ballad, “La Casa (A Casa)” by Sergio Endrigo.

The film contains some gruesome practical effects, hobbling, the masks, removal of body parts–some intense and realistic stuff from special effects coordinator Elio Terribilli, with some coordination from the costume and wardrobe department of Gabriele Porrelli, Michela Turano and Davide Zarcone.

If the plot seems familiar it should. Your writer wouldn’t be surprised if A Classic Horror Story wasn’t inspired by Midsommar (2019), but really the similarities are blatantly obvious, a character in the film actually says something to that effect, the differences being a huge surprise around the third act, as well as there being a hero or at least a good hero, which Midsommar lacks. To be honest, if you disliked Midsommar, you might love this. It’s worth it just waiting for that big surprise, and it’s a fun journey getting there.

It’s not perfect, though. An astute watcher might catch all the signs, but your writer, so engrossed in the film, did not. It sets up some glaring red herrings which might raise some questions that are never answered. The version currently on Netflix seems dubbed over in English and knowing Italian movie history it was probably recorded in English and dubbed over in English. Hey man, it’s an Italian filmmaking thing. However, the English subtitles don’t match the words they’re saying. And yeah, if you always have the subtitles on even when it’s in your own language then your writer is one of those people too.

A second watch just shows the layers of details written into this flick. It’s not at all like watching Fight Club your second time, but there are some great surprises. Seriously, this film is worth a second watch just to see the hundreds of hints you may have missed. And again, A Classic Horror Story contains one of the most gratifying third acts in recent memory. Check it out.

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