Tulpa (2012): HCF Frightfest 2012 Special Review

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Tulpa (2012)

(18 TBC) Running time: TBC

Director: Federico Zampaglione

Writers: Federico Zampaglione, Giacomo Gensini

Starring: Nuot Arquint, Laurence Belgrave, Michela Cescon, Ivan Franek, Claudia Gerini

Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic

The Giallo is back was the announcement made ahead of Tulpa’s world premiere at Frightfest, and I for one was very very excited to see if indeed this homage to the classic Italian horror thrillers could live up to that statement. Tulpa works, incredibly well in places, and it is clear on this evidence that director Federico Zampaglione knows his stuff, but there are huge problems with this film, and sadly everything comes crashing down come the end after some seriously messy scripting and one particular actress raising constant laughs from the audience, which I don’t think was the intention.

Tulpa IS a Giallo, it has all the trademarks: razor blades: check, black gloved killer: check, bizarre yet effective music: check, primary colours: check, a murder mystery: check. Hell, even the end attempts to confuse, like most Giallo’s did, but is sadly spoilt by an explanation that we did not really need. However, for the most part, Tulpa is excellent and fans of the genre will find lots, and I mean lots to enjoy in the first hour. We get all of the above, with the kills delivered in terrific and ultra gruesome style, and we get lashings and lashings of sex, it is everywhere and drives the main focus of the story. The story itself is pretty simple: a business man is having some problems and warns his team that by the end of the week, one of them has to go. In that team is the seductive Lisa (played by Zampaglione’s fiancée Claudia Gerini), and by day she is a ruthless business woman, but by night her dark secrets are revealed. She spends her time at a private sex club called Tulpa, which is run by a creep Tibetan guru who spends his time giving Lisa strange drinks filled with chemicals, and orders her to “release her Tulpa” Whatever that means, she does it, and there are a number of sex scenes here to enjoy. However, once her clients begin to get killed off in increasingly sadistic ways, she begins to suspect either she could be next, or it might be her doing the killing.

The film opens with a wonderful scene involving some S&M sex, and the killer (dressed head to toe in black, and hiding his/her face) barging in and violently killing those involved. Using a razor blade and a dagger, and with terrific amplified sound effects and music, the Giallo most definitely has returned! The story then serves as a means to join the scenes of sex and violence together for the first hour: we are blessed with some terrific and horrific classic violence full of sadistic invention. One victim is knocked out, only to wake tied to a carousel which has barbed wire hanging from the roof. As the victim spins round, the barbed wire catches their face, ripping it off piece by glorious piece. Then another victim has boiling water thrown in their face, and after stabbing her, the killer watches as her skin blisters, and the blood pours from her wound. This is sadistic stuff, and hugely satisfying. Then there are the sex scenes, with the films centrepiece being an almost Lynchian moment of utter weirdness: we see Lisa at the Tulpa club engaging in a threesome while utterly bizarre and seriously unsettling music plays, everything is coloured red, and people in creepy face masks look on while almost slithering in the background. Wonderful, invasive camera movements add to the almost euphoric and drug induced feel, and it is here that Zampaglione shows us just what he is capable of. The scene lasts for a good five minutes, and is utterly fascinating.

Speaking of the camera, it likes to hide and creep up on its cast from behind corners or in wardrobes, and gives a sense of us playing peeping tom on a world we probably will never know. The scenes at the Tulpa club, and the kills themselves are the highlights, while the day time scenes don’t really add very much to the film, and Lisa’s fall into a paranoid mess begin to ask more of the actress than what she is capable of. However, Gerini does an impressive job, but it is her best friend who causes the film to lose its way. A terrible actress, even by the Giallo standards (where the cast can often get away with some dodgy acting) this book seller just does not deliver, at all. In fact, so bad was her performance she became the laughing stock of the cinema, to the point where she only needed to be on screen to raise laughter. Now, I doubt the intention of the director was to have people laughing, but it became impossible not to. It did not help that the script fell apart, with dialogue like “she committed suicide”, followed by “oh, that is terrible”, or “for your information I work in I.T” It became embarrassing and sadly Tulpa lost its audience in a big way.

Even some later scenes, like a wonderful chase using some terrific, thumping music, could not claw the film back from where it had ultimately fallen, and Tulpa ended with the majority of the tension and mystery ruined by the faltering script and the fact the actors forgot how to act. This was a real shame considering the early parts were magnificent, and the film was actually very engaging. The main problem we are left with here is too much style over substance, and what started out as a terrific, creepy and very unsettling mystery quickly became a laughable shambles. Tulpa, for the most part, is a brilliant piece of Italian horror: creepy to the extreme, unsettling, disturbing and embracing violence like it was a religion, and the sex scenes both sizzle and baffle, and if you enjoy wonderful, dark imagery then Tulpa is for you. However, to see a film lose an audience so quickly, and so painfully, was just too much to handle, and the end result is a case of a missed opportunity to make a proper, classic Giallo and re-invent the genre for today’s generation.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Matt Wavish
About Matt Wavish 10125 Articles
A keen enthusiast and collector of all horror and extreme films. I can be picky as i like quality in my horror. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a classic, but as long as it has something to impress me then i'm a fan. I watch films by the rule that if it doesn't bring out some kind of emotive response then it aint worth watching.


  1. Yeh I thought that as I was hoping someone would ask if the film was supposed to be funny. Many people were leaving the cinema where I was sat (row kk near the back). A real shame as the film had a lot of potential, but it just lost it. Some of the dialogue was painful though

  2. I don’t think it was meant to be funny – unless the standard of acting was supposed to be making a comment on giallo. Actually I was wanting to ask if they thought cinematic heritage is really a suitable means with which to justify mysogyny and the objectification of women in the 21st century.

  3. I don’t imagine it would have gone down well. In Glasgow I asked the director of Wangs Arrival if he felt the film could be perceived as pursuing a conservative political agenda (it appears to strongly support torturing terror suspects as a means of extracting information from them) and it wasn’t overly well met.

  4. Hello everybody !!! i’m in the production team of the flick… we have been rushing to much to be ready for the Frightfest and Federico now wants to get back to the editing room and fix the problems with dubbing and dialogues . The film is going to be perfect very soon and we’ll send u a link with the new version if you want to check it out . We noticed that it was also a little too long and was kind of slowing down toward the ending..but don’t worry it will run greatly !!!

    Btw thanks for all the great things you had to say about some parts of the film


    • Thanks Paul, I would love to see a completed version of Tulpa. I guess showing these films at places like Frighfest give you the chance to see an audience’s reaction, and as you said, you can then fix any problems. It was a real shame as the film’s first hour really was terrific. I was sat near the back of the cinema screen, and I really felt it fr you guys when the laughter got louder and louder. However, the film did end well, so a final cut of the film would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks and good luck with the changes!

  5. Agreed entirely. There was a lot to like about it. Scenes involving a roundabout and barbed wire come to mind. i would also like to see one thats been perfected as there’s a lot of potential – particularly in the mood and style of it.

  6. Hey Matt, here’ s Federico Zampaglione , the director of Tulpa. I’m writing you directly from the editing room !!!!! ah ah ah ah ..Paul told me about your review and so here i am. Yes, the movie seriously needed some cuts and i’m feeling like a butcher right now !!!! we did cutt of quite 20 mins from the second half ( including bad dubbing and some dialogues completely absurd but being italian it was hard to understand the wrong axcent ) It seems to work 100 times better now and i have to tank you guys for this. When i’ll be ready with a new version ( soon ) i would love to show you what i did. Without the FF sceening i probably won’ t be making these important adjustments that will change the life of this film. thanks again for all the compliments you gave it.

    ciao buddy and we’ll get in touch soon.


    • Hey Federico, I would love to see the new edit of Tulpa. The film really does have so much potential, and hopefully a few re-edits can make the film into the classic Giallo you had planned all along. I look forward to hearing from you, and good luck with the editing!

      All the best


  7. hey Matt , i have a new cut ..can i contact u ? do u have an email address ? let me know on my email


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