EVIL’s Greatest Trick Was Convincing The World Giallo Was Dead. “Abrakadabra” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray Screener)


In Milan 1951, a prestigious magician, Dante the Great, is tragically killed when a deadly trick goes wrong. Fast forward 30 years later, the magician’s son, Lorenzo Manzini, has trouble finding his own success following his father’s footsteps as a struggling magician. The night before his grand debut, a woman has been gruesomely murdered on the very stage his father had died. As a compulsive gambler and an excessive drinker in over his head in debt, Manzini goes on with the show, but the events following his performance inspire a grisly, sadistic murderer to uses magic tricks to kill and point all evidence toward him. Hounded by a mysterious, chain-smoking detective, a frantic Manzini must split his efforts toward his own investigation into the murders, but as the bodies start to pile up and the evidence grows even more against him, there may not be anything left in Manzini’s bag of tricks to prove his innocence.

In the old traditions of an Italian murder-mystery, “Abrakadabra” is the 2018 released giallo inspired film from the Argentinian filmmaking brothers, Luciano and Nicolas Onetti, along with Carlos Goitia serving as the third wheel scriber on the script. The trio have worked previously on one other project from 2017, another horror of course, with the haunted ruins premised, “What the Waters Left Behind.” With the Onetti’s being brothers, their collaboration runs deeper, sharing an affinity for the genre that has inspired the duo to collaborate on another giallo thriller, “Francesca” in 2015 and “Deep Sleep,” where Nicolas served as producer to Luciano’s writing and directing duties. “Abrakadabra,” as well as “Francesca,” are not only far cries from the haunting and terrifying reminiscence of the ruins in “What the Waters Left Behind,” but also varies in direction, cinematography, and production design that more in lines with giallo hallmarks, such as extreme closeups, awkward camera angles, and posh interiors. “Abrakadabra” is a production of the Nicholas Onetti and Michael Kraetzer New Zealand founded company, Black Mandala, and another Nicholas production company on a more localized level with Guante Negro (Black Glove) Films co-founded with brother, Luciano.

Despite being dubbed in a fine-tuned homage of an Italian overlay track, the actors involved are hail from South America, as where the film is shot. The story centers around Lorenzo Manzini, played by German Baudino (“2/11: Day of the Dead”), and Baudino shepherds Manzini toward the brink of desperation, spinning out of control from the malevolent forces that seem to be binding his hands to gruesome murders. Baudino captures the marks of the giallo fervor in his animated performance, especially when running through a memorial park with arms flailing and a streak of fear across his face, but since it’s a murder mystery swarming around Manzini, the magician’s encounters with other rich characters comes key to unravelling Manzini’s dubious circumstances. His lovely assistant Antonella (Eugenia Rigon), the lurking chain-smoking detective (Gustavo Dalessanro), and a hospice-housed convicted murderer (Abel Giannoni) become cryptic pawns that turns “Abrakadabra’s” into a deadly game of chess soused deep into the thralls of a calculated whodunit. The remaining cast, including Clara Kovacic (“Jazmin”), Ivi Brickell, Raul Gederlini (“Francesca”), Pablo Vilela, Alejandro Troman, and Luz Champane, are perhaps the weakest link in the chain to hold “Abrakadabra” back from being a well-rounded giallo. There presence seemingly come into the fold without much creditability to their substance toward the story are, some of them, are easily dispatched with the same loosy-goosiness that firmly dilute their characters.

You have to give the Onetti brothers tremendous credit. Their attention to detail techniques, production design, and overall wardrobe schemes accomplished a toppling feat in taking the natural aesthetics, textures, and sounds of an Argentinian setting shot film and transformed all the blatant aspects to resemble an Italian giallo filmed in Italy from the 70’s or 80’s. Yet, does the veneer alone make “Abrakadabra” a good giallo film or just an immaculate carbon copy? The Onetti’s certainly know enough to exact a perfect replica as seen in “Francesca,” which was my first experience with the Onetti brothers, but “Abrakadabra” is a step backwards form “Francesca” from a story standpoint with some mishmash editing and character underdevelopment around the midsection of the second act that immobilizes the story from going forward properly, leaving the lead character Manzini in a circular rut rather than a tailspin to the climax. The prologue of Dante the Great’s accident and the twist ending that harks back to a opening Harry Houdini quote, “What the eyes see and the ears here…the mind believes,” solidifies as the best riveting acts of the Onettis’ film that becomes equalized negatively by a drab dynamic interior. In any case and though an Argentinian production “Abrakadabra” is an invigorating slice of Italian cinema with razor-sharp characteristics and a well shrouded and gloved killer.

Open sesame on the inaugural, limited edition Blu-ray, release of “Abrakadabra” from the new genre distributor on the block, Cauldron Films, who plans to release a full slate of cult films from 70s and 80s in the coming months. Limited to only 1000 copies, the Blu-ray release will include inserts of promotional artwork, a limited edition high quality slipcase with original poster art, and a CD soundtrack with music by Luciano Onetti. However, I won’t be able to review in full the finished package or the audio and video qualities as this review is based off a disc screener, but I can tell you reaffirm that DP Carlos Goitia’s scenes are amazing well established, lit, and a glimpse into the past. The Luciano Onetti score can be invasive at times, but a pure product of the electro-synth rock that goes hand-in-hand with the giallo cinematography. Audio options include an Italian 5.1 surround sound, and an Italian and English 2.0 stereo that come with optional English and Spanish subtitles. Accompanying the unrated 70 minute film is the theatrical trailer and raw behind-the-scenes footage without subtitles. As Cauldron Film’s maiden release, “Abrakadabra” is anything but hocus-pocus with a bloody homage to Italian giallo films complete with a vital synthesizing soundtrack and a shocking twist finale.

“Abrakadabra” Available on Prime Video!

Evil Surpasses Decades and Has Never Looked So Good! “Francesca” review!

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Fifteen years after the kidnapping and disappearance of Francesca, the young daughter of renowned poet and stage performer Vittorio Visconti and his wife Nina, a string of brutal murders by a relentless psychopath links itself to the case of missing Francesca and sparks community outrage with the deaths that are connected with Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. Detectives Moretti and Succo eagerly take on the case, that’s heavy with burden, to quickly apprehend the murderer but to also solve a more than decade old missing child case. As the bodies pile up and Moretti and Succo attempt to get closer to a resolution in the midst of grave public panic, a web of past dark secrets depict a convoluted picture surrounding the private Visconti family that may or may not be directly involved in what really came of poor young Francesca.
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The sweet, bloody sweet giallo genre is not dead! The crime mystery thriller with shockingly grisly murders is alive and well and embodied in the soul of Luciano Onetti’s 2015 sophomore directorial that’s co-written with his brother, Nicolas Onetti. The Onetti brothers’ “Francesca” release gets a treatment deserving of kings with a gloriously and beautifully illustrated cover and inner lining that contains powerfully-packed 3-disc Blu-ray and DVD combo set distributed by the artistic gorehounds Unearthed Films and the multifaceted MVDVisual. Complete with an inscrutable and deranged killer that’s greatly diabolical in their own insane world built upon the Buenos Aires born director’s passion for Italian horror, every giallo loving attribute has been meticulously applied to “Francesca” from the shrouded killer to the use of characterizing the antagonist with simply their leather bound, throat-gripping hands high above the clicking of offbeat high heals not casted far from a creepy doll used to motif the killer’s ominous presence. Blood red violence streaks of eye disfigurements, or any facial disfigurement, throughout a script that’s much attuned to the structure and content, reigniting a flame of hope in a declining genre to which the 33-year-old Onetti appears to hold very dear to his heart.
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In addition to the inner mechanisms and the ivory gears that constitutes a giallo film, Luciano Onetti takes his feature that one step further by reducing hues and adding an Italian post-production dub track, overlaying the assumptive Argentinean dialogue, to zip back to the past for a time hop location that’s purposefully set in 1970’s Rome. With props true to the time period, “Francesca” has undoubtedly a budget that delivers the malevolent charm of a Dario Argento slasher with a slightly modern taste for the Michele Soavi ghastliness, working seamlessly together to compile an apt tribute of surging giallo birthed right out of South America. “Francesca” is a stunning visual, a clear marker of filmmaking inspiration inspired by classic filmmaking that’s specific in it’s venture from familiar Italian editing techniques to capturing or creating the menace in even the most mundane of filler scenes.
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“Francesca” is certainly a film that glorifies the anti-hero with a killer wreaking havoc amongst the public’s most disparaging people who got off the hook easily. When considering the depth chart, this vigilante psychopath exploits Dante’s work as a means of justification where one’s person journey to the gates of heaven must first travel through the gates of hell, providing a similar Charon’s obol of sorts where a metaphorical coin is viewed as a bribe for the gatekeeper or ferryman of souls. Even if considered an anti-hero, the murderer still manages to appeal as the villain because so much of the story’s focus is on Moretti (Luis Emilio Rodriguez) and Succo (Gustavo Dalessanro) and both Rodriguez and Dalessanro make their first on-screen film debut, suitably connecting with “Francesca’s” elderly ambiance.
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The Not Rated Unearthed Films and MVDVisual 3-Disc Blu-ray and DVD combo is 77 minutes of pure fanboy gold, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 in a vary of purposefully pruned coloring and intended faux film stock imperfections to recreate a 1970’s Italian giallo. The Italian dialogue track doesn’t quite synch and, again, that’s deliberate to fabricate a past ideal. My only gripe with this release is with the English subtitles as there were a few issues, including some key mistakes in spelling and with the pace of the subtitle that were way too quick. That shouldn’t sway anyone from this awe-striking and gorgeous limited edition release that comes complimentary with a booklet of an in-depth review from Ultra Violent Magazine’s Art Ettinger. The third disc rounds out the release as the film’s soundtrack, scored by Luciano Onetti and his progressive rock that’s a slight modernization of the synch-prog rock of this particular genre’s decade. “Francesca” comes straight out of a forgotten 40-year time capsule, looking to violate the eyes, minds, and ears of a younger generation and stimulating the nearly flatlined Italian giallo genre.

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Hurry! “Francesca” is a Limited Edition release! Won’t be around forever!