These lesser-known gialli are as intriguing as they are entertaining.
I’ve subsisted on a daily diet of horror movies for a number of years and I’m quite enjoying it. But for the sake of variety and varied nutritional needs, I like to mix it up every once in a while. When I want to diversify a little but not a lot, I put in a giallo. Gialli is a close cousin of modern horror film. In fact, the slasher genre was built with the giallo as a rough model. Different from more proper horror, giallo tends to focus more on the mystery element of the narrative, serving up the plot with an ultra-violent edge.
Gialli usually feature a series of red herrings and various other narrative devices to misdirect the audience and obscure the identity of the killer until the film’s final moments. Half the fun is following the trail (often an amateur sleuth closely connected to the case) as they attempt to piece together the puzzle while dodging the maniacal impulses of a murderous madman.
Check out our review of the giallo-inspired comeback, The editor here!
While the output of directors like Dario Argento and Mario Bava has been recognized by film scholars and viewers alike, there are plenty of notable efforts by slightly less prolific directors also worthy of your attention. And with that in mind, I’ve cultivated a list of underseen gialli who deserve greater fame. Read on for my top picks.
The red queen kills seven times
Emilio Miraglia (who also directed The night Evelyn rose from the grave) directed this chilling story centered around a dark family prophecy. The film is full of unexpected twists. And while it seems to hint at supernatural forces at work, one can’t help but wonder if (in true giallo form) the carnage could be perpetrated by a human? If you’re curious, you’ll have to see for yourself.
As of the publication of this article, the film is available to stream on Shudder. So if you haven’t seen it, now might be the perfect time to give The red queen kills seven times a shot.
Death walks on high heels
The story of an exotic dancer courted by a mysterious doctor has gone unnoticed. Despite Arrow’s top-notch Blu-ray release, the film still remains largely overlooked. Director Luciano Ercoli demonstrates a deep understanding of building and maintaining tension with this offering and even delivers some exhilarating action sequences. When you combine that with a dream score, over-the-top performances, and a storyline where anyone could be the killer, you’ve got yourself a gripping thriller that hits all the giallo’s strengths.
Upon release, this underrated mystery thriller is available to stream on Tubi (for free, with ads).
Death walks at midnight
Ercoli followed Death walks on high heels with the equally underrated Death walks at midnight. Other than sharing a director and having deliberately similar titles, these gialli don’t have much else in common. This time around, we see Valentina (Susan Scott), a model who witnesses a brutal murder while under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. As a result, no one seems to believe Valentina when she reports what she observed. Death walks on high heels serves up a series of twists that are likely to keep the viewer on their toes until all is revealed in the shocking ending. The film is also notable for the use of a metal spiked glove similar to the one that featured in the proto-giallo, Blood and black lace.
Like its precursor, Death walks on high heels, death walks at midnight is also available to stream on Tubi!
black belly of the tarantula
This 1971 giallo is one of many animal-themed titles released after the success of Dario Argento The bird with crystal plumage. This twisty tale of a killer who abducts victims associated with a health spa separates itself from the pack by masterfully subverting expectations early and often. The film seemingly eliminates the killer as a suspect early on, only to later reveal an important detail had been overlooked.
If you want to search Tarantula Black Belly, it is currently streaming (at the time of publication) on Tubi!
Seven Bloodstained Orchids
Umberto Lenzi (from nightmare beach and Cannibal Ferox fame) was at the helm of this often overlooked giallo. The film is fast-paced and features a depraved killer who serves up gruesome carnage at regular intervals. But beyond that, Seven Bloodstained Orchids is a gripping murder mystery with a likeable lead actress in Uschi Glas (as Giulia Torresi). All of this, coupled with beautiful scenery and impressive camera work, makes this the one you should hurry to seek out.
Although this film is not currently streaming anywhere, boutique distributor Code Red released it on Blu-ray several years ago.
The Case of the Bloody Iris
This film leans heavily into all things psychosexual. The audience quickly learns that the killer is targeting women who refuse to conform to outdated ideas about sexuality. The performance in this image is exaggerated and the English audio track only serves to make that performance even more exaggerated. But despite some of its obvious flaws, it’s a compelling murder mystery with an enchanting twist from giallo mainstay Edwige Fenech.
If you’re curious about this underseen giallo, look no further than Tubi. It’s available to stream there, as soon as it’s released.
Strip Nude for your killer
I have often said that this film would have been more aptly titled Strip nude for the camera because it’s filled to the brim with gratuitous nudity. But beyond that, the film is notable for featuring giallo queen Edwige Fenech and a dreamy score by the late Berto Pisano. This image is not as effective as some of the other titles on the list. But what it lacks in substance, it makes up for with a healthy dose of sleaze that’s likely to keep you engaged for the duration of this feature’s runtime.
If you want to follow this film, it is broadcast for free on Tubi, as soon as it is published!
Tags: Giallo Italian Horror
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