Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In short: Tulpa – Perdizioni mortali (2012)

Corporate executive Lisa (Claudia Gerini) takes steam off her daily grind with the membership in one of the more adorable private sex clubs you’d be able to find, a place calling itself Tulpa. The club is a cheesy mix of harmless decadence and mock-Buddhist eso bullshit, and looks a lot like a cross between a Hollywood Buddhist’s bath room and the cover of a German 70s prostitute romance pulp novel (yeah, that’s a thing that exists) – mostly harmless yet with a lot of entertainment value.

Poor Lisa has to take time off from flirting with her boss (Michele Placido), indulging in threesomes, mild lesbian shenanigans and entry level SM, when she realizes that a lot of her sex club sex partners are murdered in long, drawn-out murder scenes by a killer in highly traditional giallo murderer garb. Of course, Lisa can’t go to the – utterly absent from the film – police to explain that connection to them, because clearly her career would be over if people found out she’s indulging in her most harmless sexual fantasies. So it’s up to her to kinda-sorta play detective and in the end accidentally find out who the killer is.

I was no fan at all of director Federico Zampaglione’s last movie, Shadow, so Tulpa came as a pleasant surprise in that I found myself quite entertained by it and appreciated the direction it was coming from. At least, I’m pretty fine with the existence of Italian movies that try to catch the old giallo magic again, and Tulpa is good enough to have been in the lower middle tier of movies made in classic giallo times, which ain’t half bad.

Of course, there are some pretty hefty weaknesses of the kind that could easily dissuade people from enjoying the film, most of them in the script area. The short synopsis should have made clear that this is – quite in the giallo tradition – not a cleverly constructed mystery but really a series of long, stylish (and quite unappetizing) murder sequences broken up by a bit of sex and Claudia Gerini walking around, looking confused and increasingly distressed. I don’t really have it in me to criticize this aspect of the film too much, because Zampaglione makes it clear right from the start that he’s not interested in the killing spree as a mystery, so it seems wrong-headed to expect differently from the film. On the other hand, it’s difficult not to find the film’s ideas about what makes for deviant sexuality a bit adorable.

The things Tulpa gets right are nothing to sneeze at, though: the acting’s fine for the sort of story this is (Gerini in particular is a satisfying giallo heroine), Zampaglione does a nice job with creating a mood of the weird and slightly grotesque that at the very least approaches the dream-like quality of classic European horror, even if it’s perhaps not quite there yet, and the murders are aesthetically pleasing and unpleasant at the same time. Which is more than enough to please me.

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