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“THE EDITOR” (TIFF Movie Review)

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For anyone raised on bleary-eyed marathons of VHS and DVD rentals, the five lunatics known as Astron-6 have been a delightful, new lurid pleasure. Through films like FATHER’S DAY and MANBORG, they’ve developed a signature tone, often pitched somewhere between parody and homage. They clearly love bargain bin trash movies. They just love laughing at them as well, and their movies toe the line between those two extremes. THE EDITOR is their latest and by far most ambitious feature, which applies the Astron-6 treatment to the giallo. It’s kind of a perfect mix, given that gialli tend to be stylistically gorgeous and magically, hilariously dumb in just the right ways. And the guys clearly know the genre well. THE EDITOR is not simply an Argento homage. Even flicks like HITCH HIKE get a moment in the spotlight.

The plot is just as lovingly convoluted as you’d hope, with co-directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy (who did the same double duty on FATHER’S DAY) doubling as the leads. Brooks plays a film editor who, thanks to a tragic accident, has a wooden hand. Though previously a master, the editor is now one breakdown away from a monster.

While toiling away on a cheesy horror film shoot, people start dying on set and the damaged mind with the wooden hand seems like the most likely suspect. Sporting the full bad mustache and white-man-fro of a vintage Donald Sutherland, Kennedy plays a detective assigned to the case, who gradually starts to uncover a supernatural aspect behind the crimes. From there, things get ludicrously surreal and convoluted in a way that Italian horror films tend to do. There are also small roles for the likes of Laurence Harvey, Paz de le Huerta, and Udo Kier, just to top off the genre nerd cocktail.

Working with easily the biggest budget they’ve had to date, Brooks and Kennedy deliver a movie that genuinely lives up to the intended aesthetic. The lighting is brashly stylized and the compositions rigidly controlled, while the production design and costumes are a late 70s nightmare. Hell, the boys even got Claudio Simonetti to write their theme. The giallo style is nailed perfectly and that’s not as easy as their more ramshackle homage movies from the past. Sure, there are deliberate continuity errors and cheesy effects from time to time, but for the most part the style and gore are strong enough to pass for the real thing if you were to catch it on television without warning.

Of course, watch for five consecutive seconds and it’s very clear the movie is a comedy, it just all springs from less flattering giallo tropes. First, everyone is dubbed over to hilariously incongruous effect and the lines themselves have the awkward stumbling of poor translation. The acting is suitably ridiculous, the insane plot twists are played for laughs, and even the misogyny of the old movies is exaggerated and mocked. Brooks and Kennedy know exactly what makes watching an old, Italian horror movie so singularly fun and somehow found a way to recreate it.

I’ve no idea how THE EDITOR would play for audiences completely unfamiliar with its specific style and reference. I’ve gone too far down the giallo rabbit hole to hazard a guess, but I find it hard to believe it wouldn’t still be funny. There are ticks that are universal to bad movie language, jokes completely divorced from the style, and plenty of good, old fashioned splatstick carnage. However, if you’ve got that sweet tooth for Italian horror that makes you already run for a title like PIECES or STAGE FRIGHT, then do absolutely anything that you can to get yourself in front of THE EDITOR.

3.5_skull

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About the author
Phil Brown
Phil Brown is a journalist, writer, and wiseacre who rattles his keyboard from somewhere in Toronto. He writes about film and comedy for a variety of websites/publications like Fangoria (duh!), Now Magazine, The Toronto Star, Comics And Gaming Magazine, Toro, Critics Studio, and others. He’s also been known to whip up the occasional comedy sketch or short film. If you feel like being friends, go ahead and find him. He doesn’t bite (much).
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