Tulpa: Directors Cut (2012)
(TBC) Running time: 86 minutes
Director: Federico Zampaglione
Writers: Federico Zampaglione, Dardano Sacchetti, Giacomo Gensini
Starring: Claudia Gerini, Nuot Arquint, Laurence Belgrave, Michela Cescon
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
I first reviewed Federico Zampaglione’s Giallo homage, Tulpa, after seeing it at last year’s Fright Fest. My initial thoughts on the film was that while it was flawed, there was indeed a classic Giallo simmering under the surface struggling to get out. The crowd reaction to Tulpa at Fright Fest sadly spoilt my enjoyment of the film somewhat, and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the eruption of laughter as a particular actress appeared on screen. I really felt it for the director and the cast and crew as they were all in the audience, watching as their stylish Giallo homage began to fall apart. As the film reached its climax, all tension and horror was taken away by a now constantly giggling audience, and Zampaglione was left with the painful realisation that there were issues to fix.
However, I fully respect the director for doing what he promised at Fright Fest and the entire crew joined him on stage after the film. Granted it may not have been as they had planned it, but they still got up there, kept their dignity and I would hope, the respect from fans. It couldn’t have been easy getting up in front of a cinema packed with hundreds of horror fans who had just laughed and totally ruined your big moment, but Zampaglione took it well, left Fright Fest and got to work re-editing his film to get it right. So how did he get on improving his film? Well my friends, I watched it last night, the new re-cut version that the director has made based on crowd response and his own ideas, and as I sat down to watch the film again my hopes were high. See, there was an awful lot to enjoy with Tulpa, especially for fans of Giallo horror, so I was just hoping the messy final third could be fixed, and a certain actress (unfortunately) edited out. I believe I got what I was hoping for…
For those not aware of Tulpa, best I explain to you what the film is all about. The truly stunning Claudia Gerini stars as Lisa, a seductively sexy business woman by day, working hard for a corporation and trying to climb the ladder, all the while knowing her good looks are useful when trying to impress the boss. However, by night she becomes a sexual predator, visiting an up market sex club run by a bizarre and at times rather creepy man played by Nuot Arquint. He spends his time there talking very slowly, dropping liquid drugs into his girls drinks and telling them to “free your Tulpa”. The sexual escape it just what Lisa needs, and for us the viewer, makes for some very exciting scenes. There are some problems though, and as Lisa becomes more hooked on the club, a killer is on the loose, killing clients she has slept with. As with all good Giallo’s the name of the game is to guess the killer while we are bombarded with vicious and blood thirsty killings, haunting or just plain bizarre music, and the odd bit of plot development here and there. If ever there was a homage to the classic Giallo that deserved the title, then Tulpa is it. All the ingredients are here, and I will get to those in a minute, but what really mattered about this re-edited version was could Zampaglione sort out the issues?
Well, for starters the actress who provided the chuckles at Fright Fest has clearly been heavily edited out, only appearing when absolutely necessary. It also looks like she might have acted out her role again, but then that could just be me looking for fixes. However, she is all but gone, and her poor dialogue and terrible acting only raise their ugly head for key scenes. Score one point to Zampaglione, and brave too. How he went about that conversation is anybody’s guess, but glad it wasn’t me that had to do it! Secondly, the film had a truly astonishing first half, and that is still present, correct and untouched, but the second half has clearly been edited, and all the better for it. The film flows better now, it doesn’t linger where it doesn’t need to, and the plot plays out much better than the messy finish it had before. Granted there are still a few minor issues with the acting come the films second half, but to see what efforts Zampaglione and his team have made to fix things, these acting problems can easily be ignored. The final moments are also over much quicker, and make much more sense than the overly confusing original finish: score two, three and four to Zampaglione! The new version runs some six minutes shorter than the original version, and in my opinion, is a much more polished and brilliant edit that is actually very good indeed. These small but necessary changes are a huge improvement, and now, after seeing this again, I will definitely be adding the film to my collection at home when it gets released!
Now, for those who have not seen this, let me once again tell you about the good stuff, because there is plenty of it! The opening scene let’s you know right from the start Zampaglione’s intentions: this is a Giallo homage, you are going to see lots of Giallo style and substance, lots of sex, lots of cruelty and a very large amount of graphic murder, and you will love it! The first five minutes see’s some S&M with a seriously hot lady being tied up, while the man enjoys a drink and prepares his cocaine. The killer arrives, dressed head to toe in black: black hat, long black coat, black bottoms, shoes and, most importantly, black gloves. The horrific murder is hard to watch: the man’s face is forced down onto his glass snorting tube, and then he is violently cut open and castrated, welcome my friends, to Tulpa!
The story doesn’t require much build up, we get to know Lisa very quickly as she sits at her desk in work, chats with her boss and eventually drives home. All the while, Zampaglione is flaunting Claudio Gerini’s sexy figure: almost perverse shots of her legs as she lays them on her desk at work, close ups of her feet as she pushes the pedals in her car, it is all done for maximum seduction, and it works. It will be very hard not to fall in love with Lisa, and just like that you have a character you care about! Zampaglione’s camera gets you up close and personal with Lisa, and this comes in very handy during the numerous sex scenes later on. Her first visit to Tulpa see’s some beautiful imagery as we watch the special drug the owner has put together for her drink. The camera does a superb close up and watches the drink change colour, one of Zampaglione’s many gorgeous creations of beautiful, and at times nightmarish imagery. As the film goes on we get bizarre shots of statues, lots of figures in silhouette, close ups, hideous masks, snakes, naked women, creepy body paint, strange characters dressed in even stranger clothing, it’s all here. The imagery and style of Tulpa is absolutely stunning, and if you come away loving just one thing about the film, then this will probably be it.
However, there is also so much violence included here too, some of which is truly hard to stomach (even for this hardened horror fanatic!) There is the truly sadistic death by carousel and barbed wire, punishment by boiling water, fingers hacked off and throats cut. Zampaglione has a real flare for violence, but he also appears to love involving women in this violence too. The women are cruelly exploited for their beautiful female form, and each and every victim is sexy, and dressed to kill. Short skirts, heels, tights, even a pure white bath robe are used to emphasise the beauty of women, and Zampaglione clearly has an eye for the ladies. He also has an eye for dark, nightmarish blood, and when blood is shed, it is truly something to behold. It splatters everywhere, and yet there is still a precision to it, as if the director knew EXACTLY where he wanted it to fall. The blood on a pure white bath robe gives the claret an amazing moment where it very nearly feels alive, and that is just how stylish this film can be.
Then there is the music: it thunders through the film giving one hell of an atmosphere and almost crushing menace. The music comes and goes as it pleases, and really adds a mighty wallop to the proceedings. There are two moments in this film where the music truly takes over: a chase through striking red coloured corridors where Lisa is hunted by a muscular woman brandishing a sword. The music thunders along and builds until you get a creepy growling added into the mix, the stuff of nightmares indeed. Then there is a nightmare where Lisa is being seduced by another woman, and panic sets in when Lisa finds out the woman is a monster, and yet more growling is added to the sensual music, and provides the film’s best jump scene.
There is also a perverse, hideous but hugely enjoyable sex scene about half an hour in involving Lisa, another woman and a man she later tries to protect: the music builds and builds as the surroundings become weirder and more disturbing. All the good stuff tends to happen at night, giving true meaning to the word “nightmare”. Daytime shots are filled with natural light and natural colours, with barely any music. It is the night-time where it all happens here, which allows for the director to be as creative as he wants to be!
Tulpa really does have so much going for it, and it is a hugely enjoyable watch. Zampaglione has ironed out the problems, and fixed the issues with what was very nearly a masterpiece. Granted the film is still not perfect, and still has its issues (the script still suffers, as does some acting), but all in all this is a much better version and Tulpa has finally arrived in its truest form. Those who have seen it, I highly recommend checking out the new version once it is released, and those who have not seen it, well you are in for a real treat with Tulpa. It is full of everything we love about horror, and it flaunts and forces it on us in a sadistic and pleasurable way. Tulpa is one of those films you know you should be disgusted by, but deep down you know you love it. A nightmarish thrill ride from start to finish that requires heavily on style over substance. Forget needing a polished, perfect plot, just enjoy being swept away into the world of Tulpa. In fact my recommendation is that we all “free our Tulpa”, whatever the Hell that means!!!