Does the giallo as we all know and love it have a place in 21st century horror? Well that all depends. Last year Spain offered us the thoroughly enjoyable, stylish and barking mad thriller JULIA'S EYES (which is reviewed on this very site). A few years prior to that Italy and Spain got together to produce EYES OF CRYSTAL, a police procedural that could be considered a serious giallo (complicated plotting, obscure clues, creatively bizarre murders) without all the daft (but fun) elements of its 1970s precursors (outrageous fashions, terrible wallpaper, J&B, excessive scantily clad pulchritude). Oh yes, EYES OF CRYSTAL (or OCCHI DI CRISTALLO to give it the original Italian title) is definitely a giallo for the 21st century, a sleeker, more polished, more distilled version, if you will, of its predecessors.
There's a mad taxidermist roaming the streets of an unnamed Italian city, busy reconstituting the doll he keeps having flashbacks to from his youth (along with burning nuns and other Italian standbys) from human body parts. His murder victims are left with the parts he has removed replaced with mannikin limbs and, more often than not, with Latin phrases written in blood on the wall close by. Luigi Lo Cascio is the Young Cop Who Doesn't Live By The Rules (he shoots a rapist in the knee in the film's opening sequence after they have caught him just to show he's a bit unstable) assigned to investigate the murders and work out why people are turning up on the beach minus their legs. Senior policeman Simon Andreu (star of THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE and providing a nice link with the EuroHorror of old) gets admitted to hospital where he lies slowly dying of a brain tumour and seeing visions of him and the killer together when they were boys at the orphanage where they grew up but unfortunately he can't remember the chap’s name until it’s just too late. Lucia Jimenez is on hand as the gorgeous girl who needs Lo Cascio's protection but ends up tied to a rickety old bed in her skimpies as the killer dangles his knife over her. It all reaches a climax at the big scary orphanage overlooking the cliffs near the sea where the killer's identity is revealed, as is his whacked out reason for what he's been doing with all the body parts.
Extremely stylishly shot, EYES OF CRYSTAL often manages to out-Dario Mr Argento with some of its delicious visual set-ups, and there are so many the movie is worth watching at least twice just to appreciate some of the more subtle visual treats and framing on offer here. A glass eye factory and a climax that relies partly on a homage to a certain Mario Bava film that will have all his fans nodding in appreciation, this really is very good indeed. Director Eros Puglielli seems to have worked solely in Italian television since making this which is a shame, as his eyes would be better employed constructing more stylish visual feasts of giallo for a modern generation.