Originally published on this site here, in Italian.
Produced by: Baionetta Movies Production; New Old Story Film Casalpusterlengo
Directed by: Roberto Albanesi; Lorenzo Lepori
Written by: Roberto Albanesi; Lorenzo Lepori; Antonio Tentori
Cinematography: Simone Chiesa; Lorenzo Lepori; Leonardo Monfardini
Edited by: Simone Chiesa; Lorenzo Lepori; Luca Spadoni
Music by: Luca Spadoni
Special effects and Make-up: David Bracci; Alessandro Catalano; Crea FX; Sergio Stivaletti
Running time: approximately 70 minutes
Budget: estimated 8.000,00 € (source: IMDB)
WARNING – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Italian horror has gone through many ups and downs. After about twenty years of splendor, in the mid-1980s it slowly began to decline, ending up in the oblivion of productions realized more for the foreign market than for the domestic one, more for home video than for the theatres.
Catacomba tries to reverse this trend by using one of the horror classics, the anthological movie, and drawing inspiration from the horror-erotic comics of the 70s-80s (the designer of the poster, namesake of the director, is one of the artists of the Oltretomba comic).
The film features icons and authoritative names: Antonio Tentori, Sergio Stivaletti, Pascal Persiano. They are joined by Lorenzo Lepori and Roberto Albanesi as directors, as well as actors and technicians who, perhaps unknown to the general public, have exercised a worthy performance (Simona Vannelli, but also Silvia Ercolini and Eleonora Sinotti, Moreno Fabbri, Simone Chiesa and Massimo Mas, just to name a few).
There are 5 episodes, including one that serves as a frame for the others.
In the frame episode we see a young man looking for a barber shop, ending up in the armchair of the “Un diavolo per capello” salon1, next to which, instead of the usual fashion or hair-styling magazines, he finds the horror comic Catacomba (included in the DVD edition). He starts reading it.
The plot of the first episode is simple but effective: a screenwriter played by Antonio Tentori (or perhaps the screenwriter Antonio Tentori himself) seeks inspiration, and finds it under a cursed tree, famous for ancient witch burnings, isolated in the fields. The arrival of a motorcycle distracts him. Here start 15 minutes of madness, Satanism, explicit splatter threw in the face of the viewer.
One thing becomes clear in these few minutes: thanks also to the anthological structure, Catacomba avoids the usual climax, bringing us immediately to the moment of shock.
The second episode has perhaps the most delirious plot. Starting as a small-town story filled with murders, it mixes aliens and rape and revenge, monsters of the black lagoon and men in black. All with a stunning naturalness.
In reality, this naturalness derives from the structure of the movie. In fact, we are not seeing (for now) the reality, and not even the reality of the movie’s narrative universe: we are imagining, with the guy in the barber shop, the unfolding of the Catacomba comic. So we already know that everything we see is nothing but fiction in fiction, Cinema in cinema, the imagination of a guy who reads a comic in a movie while the reality of the viewer is outside.
This way, Catacomba allows itself to show basically everything, and manages to impress.
In the third episode we have a great classic: Paganini, the Italian violinist who inspired movies (Paganini Horror, Kinski Paganini) and comics (La Dozzina del Pentagramma – Alan Ford, n. 35). Not by chance, the main character of the episode is Pascal Persiano (who was in Paganini Horror).
The fourth episode also refers to the classics, and in the title itself: The Mask Of The Red Death. As often happens with Poe’s stories, here the material is fictionalized and mixed with something else. In terms of shock, however, we are on high levels: infanticide, spiritism, sex, necrophilia, cannibalism. Definitely the most violent episode in the movie!
The movie is full of references, from Poe to Paganini and Men in Black, from Lucio Fulci to Joe D’Amato, passing through the Hammer films, esotericism and science-fiction of the 1950s. Those who love references and the game of associations between author and viewer will be satisfied.
There are some small errors, of course, maybe due to a hasty shooting or to a dialogue brought a little beyond its most effective conclusion, but they do not affect the movie as a whole and its strengths, special effects in the first place.
In conclusion, Catacomba is inspired by the classics but is a breath of fresh air in its own way. It shows once more that it’s possible to make a horror movie full of non-digital effects while respecting a very limited budget; that some big names are still able to carry on the Art; that Italian horror can still provide excellent elements even among young people.
Recommended to those who love horror, gore, exploitation, to those who want to have fun, and maybe even have a laugh with splatter effects and dialogues above the lines, to the lovers of the underground comics of the past years.
Cinematographe – https://www.cinematographe.it/recensioni/catacomba-recensione-film-lorenzo-lepori/ (last visit 02/08/2017)
IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5585900/?ref_=nv_sr_1 (last visit 02/08/2017)
Italian Wikipedia – https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oltretomba_(fumetto) (last visit 02/08/2017)
Mymovies.it – https://www.mymovies.it/film/2016/catacomba/poster/ (last visit 02/08/2017)
Pointblank.it – http://www.pointblank.it/recensione/catacomba/ (last visit 02/08/2017)