A Classic Horror Story (2021) Isn’t What It Appears to Be, For Better or For Worse
Title: A Classic Horror Story
First Non-Festival Release: July 14, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli
Writer: Lucio Besana, Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Starring: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Francesco Russo, Yuliia Sobol
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A group of travelers are carpooling in an RV when they get into an accident in the middle of the night. They awaken far from the road and near a mysterious house in a deserted field. Stunned at how far they strayed from the path, they explore their surroundings and discover some creepy artifacts indicating that something isn’t right with this place. Once they learn of the terrifying tale surrounding the property, they must prepare for the fight for their lives. Armed with only their determination and wit, they must break free from the strange nature of their new world.
Everything and nothing is revealed in the title, A Classic Horror Story which leaves only polarizing results.
A Classic Horror Story is essentially two different stories weakly held together by its own narrative connective tissue. The first half is exciting and dynamic while the latter portion wanders into tediousness. The lore behind the area is nothing new, but it still sparks enough interest in the viewer to wonder how and why these things are happening. It only gets mired by the odd choices to pull it together. It’s very easy to catch on early, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in a film that sets itself up to be “classic.” With potential to go for something unique, A Classic Horror Story falters in its attempt to lean into the satirical.
Hoping to expound on the nature of violence and media, A Classic Horror Story acts as if its grand finale is something to be marveled. It could be a statement in of itself, to say nothing new while passing itself off as provocative content, but it feels more like the writers are trying too hard to be edgy. The twist is make or break and on some levels it could work. Ultimately, the themes it attaches itself to make it feel late to the party and give the viewer a feeling of “so what?”
Top notch visuals and captivating lighting makes for a grand horror experience and allows A Classic Horror Story to shine. Always a treat, red neon lighting signals to the olden days of Italian horror that is big, gaudy, and reliant on the ultimate twist. It also fits the current trends resurging through arthouse horror in the States over the past decade. Additionally, it’s just aesthetically pleasing to watch as the carnage unfolds on camera.
Another notable point in favor of the film is its attention to design. The designs of the antagonists are incredible and make for some truly terrifying moments. Simple yet uncanny, they evoke a very specific fear of more pagan times, and, again, harken to trends in modern horror particularly with cults and backwoods horror. Every crunch, clank, and shot feels as impactful as it should despite the film panning away at almost every instance of violence. It’s important to note the choice of implying the violence is interesting given the subtext of the film.
The true star of the show is Francesco Russo. While the rest of the cast is serviceable in their roles, he goes above and beyond to sell the nervous RV driver who constantly fails at stopping the madness. His turn in the end gets into some typical headspace for his character archetype but he does plenty to make Fabrizio compelling. Without his portrayal, A Classic Horror Story may have felt more flaccid against its lackluster themes.
A promising first half is dampened by a less than stellar second half but that doesn’t stop A Classic Horror Story from delivering some quality scares along the way. There’s plenty to dig in this Italian creepfest, as it has plenty of technical merits to applaud. Between its sleek aesthetic and natural worldbuilding, A Classic Horror Story ratchets up the suspense and terror with unflinching sound design and a killer antagonist wardrobe. It wavers only in its quest to put the puzzle pieces together. What could have been a subversion on classic tropes turns into muddled commentary on the nature of violence and media. In the end, its hope of differentiating itself from “other” horror movies makes it incredibly similar to “other” horror movies. It won’t be a classic, but this film is certain to get under your skin even if just for a flashing moment.
Overall Score? 6/10