I live for a good giallo or, truth be told, a really bad one. You see, even the most mediocre giallo holds something special, be it the location (especially spooky, foggy, perfect Venice), the over-the-top murders, the kick-ass soundtracks, or the unmasking of the killer (hint: it’s always the priest). As Women in Horror Month kicked off, I kept thinking about my obsession with gialli and what made them so special to me. It finally dawned on me that, despite their flaws, these films are incredibly feminist. The women in gialli are unlike anything seen in American slashers or thrillers during the 1970’s. For me, this is one of the reasons why these films are still refreshing and captivating over forty years later.
Giallo, the Italian word for ‘yellow,’ has come to encompass the Italian slasher film genre as a whole. In post-fascist Italy, paperback mystery novels were given yellow covers, and it was the content of these dime-store novels that served as the plots for many giallo films. This subgenre usually features a black-leather-gloved killer, armed with a knife; bold colors (the genre’s giants Mario Bava and Argento heavily favor blood-red); and ample amounts of nudity and sex. While Italians certainly cornered the market on gialli, there are some solid British and American contributions to the genre such as Peeping Tom (1960), Frenzy (1972), Klute (1971), and The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978).