I love gialli. Stylistically, these Italian classics are everything I love; they’re moody yet vibrant, atmospheric and always glamorous. Do the mysteries always have a good pay off? No. But they sure as hell will always give you something beautiful to look at.
Abrakadabra is the latest giallo from the Argentinian Onetti brothers. Like other homage-style films like House of the Devil and The Love Witch, this movie perfectly emulates a time in cinema history. In barely over an hour’s running time, we’re given a glimpse back into the beautiful and brutal world of giallo. But this time there’s magic!
Lorenzo Mancini is a magician. He’s also the son of a murdered magician. Bad luck seems to follow him everywhere. Most clearly exemplified when a woman is found murdered on stage just before his debut.
Mancini is insistent that he doesn’t know the deceased. Though her unusual abracadabra amulet catches his eye.
That night, Mancini performs for his audience. Despite a strong start, things begin to go awry when he brings his assistant on stage. The crowd quickly become disinterested when he pulls off a trick.
The following morning, Mancini realises his assistant Antonella is missing. He sets off to find her. But along the way, he quickly realises something is not right.
When more women are murdered, more fingers are pointed at Mancini as the culprit. But what’s really going on? Who, exactly, is trying to frame him?
The story begins to weave it’s convoluted web of fact and fiction, dreams and reality.
The film’s ending can give you whiplash if you don’t keep up. The twists come in thick and the imagery is quick. But the pay off is truly in the giallo style.
I had a blast watching this movie just for the images alone. There’s some really strong moments of cinematography. It makes each death worth remembering just for the sheer art on screen.
The style reminded me of early gialli like Sei donne per l’assassino (from which it heavily borrows its lighting’s colour pallet) and Argento’s Tenebrae. I don’t make these comparisons lightly, Abrakadabra clearly wants us to be looking for these homages.
While I really enjoyed the film. There’s one thing that really lets it down: the English dub. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wacky dub (I’m looking at you, 30-year-old man who gave Giovanni Frezza a voice). Most gialli have a mixture of actors delivering lines in various languages, so they’re all inevitably dubbed at some point.
But I found the dub here to be very distracting. Lead actor Germán Baudino’s real voice is smooth and wonderful to listen to. I feel robbed from not being able to hear his delivery. I’d certainly seek out the blu-ray once it’s released in June just to hear it in it’s original language.
So I say for anyone outside of the US (where it’s currently streaming on Amazon), hold out until you can watch it without the dub. Abrakadabra deserves to be watched in its full, glamorous glory.