'The Editor': Turin Review

Courtesy of Astron-6
Sharply observed, frequently hilarious retro-horror spoof.

Canadian comedy collective sends a blood-drenched love letter to the golden era of pulpy Eurotrash horror cinema

A crazed killer stalks the set of a lurid low-budget movie in this Canada-made horror comedy, which pays affectionate homage to the Italian giallo genre that peaked in the 1960s and 1970s with the highly stylized murder melodramas of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Eurotrash retro-slasher satire is a difficult comic formula to get right, but The Editor scores highly with its surreal humor and well-observed genre in-jokes. The film-world setting adds a further meta-layer of self-referential satire: imagine Berberian Sound Studio remade by the team behind the Naked Gun comedies.

The Editor is the biggest project yet from Canada's Astron-6 collective, which graduated from spoof trailers to full features with the Troma-backed Father's Day in 2011. It taps much the same rich hinterland of vintage grind-core cliches as their past work, but with just enough of a budget boost (around $100,000) to include grander special effects and semi-famous castmembers, including veteran cult star Udo Kier and Paz de la Huerta of Boardwalk Empire. Screened at the Turin Film Festival last week, in the homeland of giallo, this superior exercise in schlock-horror homage has enough knowing wit and retro-kitsch style to reach out to audiences beyond narrow genre fan circles.

Typically for an Astron-6 production, writer-directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy also play lead roles and handle key crew duties, including editing and cinematography. Rey Ciso (Brooks) is a film editor whose career took a nosedive after he sliced off his own fingers during a temporary descent into madness. Now fitted with a wooden hand, Ciso is working on a trashy slasher feature for a big-shot Italian director, Claudio Calvetti (Brett Donahue). But trouble looms in the form of a masked psychopath who haunts the movie after hours, bumping off its stars in gushing scarlet fountains of blood.

Because the killer slices the fingers off each victim, suspicion naturally falls on Ciso when hotshot detective Porfiry (Kennedy) comes sniffing around the set. Wannabe leading man Cal Konitz (Conor Sweeney) also takes questionable pleasure in the murders, shamelessly exploiting them to advance his acting career. The editor begins to question his own fragile mental state, not helped by his diva-like wife, former movie scream-queen Josephine Jardine (de la Huerta). Before long, the hacked-up bodies begin piling up.

Kennedy and Brooks have great fun spoofing the giallo genre, forensically re-creating its fuzzy Betamax feel and pulpy comic-book grammar of garish lighting, split screens, poison spiders, nightmarish hallucinations, gloved hands holding knives, superfluous nudity, delirious occult subplots and badly dubbed dialogue. The chronic chauvinism of the era is another source of humor, Austin Powers style. Male characters routinely slap hysterical women, who respond with instant obedience or sexual excitement. This is intended as satire on the casual caveman sexism of yesteryear, of course, but some feminist critics might disagree.

The Editor contains numerous homages to Argento, not least a throbbing electro-rock score co-written by Claudio Simonetti of Argento's musical favorites, Goblin. Alert devotees also will pick up multiple allusions to other movies, including David Cronenberg's Videodrome. But it is entirely possible to enjoy this lurid love letter to a lost golden age of Eurotrash cinema without any prior background knowledge. The jokes mostly stand up on their own, loud and proud and gloriously silly.

Production companies: Astron-6, Kennedy-Brooks
Cast: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney, Paz de la Huerta, Brett Donahue, Samantha Hill, Sheila Campbell, Udo Kier, Jerry Wasserman
Directors: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy
Screenwriters, Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Conor Sweeney
Cinematographers: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Jon'Nathan Stebbe
Music: Jeremy Gillespie, Claudio Simonetti, Brian Wiacek
Sales company: Park Entertainment, London

Rated R, 102 minutes