Foreign competition is a hell of a thing for local industries, but sometimes it can yield good results for consumers and reinvigorate a stagnant or dying market. A good example of this is how in the late seventies American automakers found themselves in the ridiculous position of being completely unable build a car that didn’t explode in a shower of rust like a big scrap metal dandelion once the warranty had run out. The Japanese, on the other hand, had no such problems, and the automotive landscape of America was changed forever.
Even film is not immune to this. Once upon a time, Giallo used to be the sole propriety of the Italians. Sure, it was their way to rip off Hitchcock films, but the genre outgrew these humble roots rather quickly and became its own distinct thing which had its own distinct elements. A pounding soundtrack, a nigh incomprehensible story and mystery, characters that talked like they were brain injury victims, the sort of cinematography right out of a medieval painting, and a holy trinity of gore, violence and more gore.
Arguably, the Godfather of Giallo is Dario Argento, but he’s like those American car companies from the seventies I’m talking about. His modern giallo films are so damn bad that he’s essentially spending money to tell his audience to go watch something else.
The Serbian made “T.T. Syndrome” isn’t as beautiful as Argento’s old films, only an Italian could merge beauty and violence like he did, but it is as stylish. The filmmakers also seem to have done their homework. In one scene, there’s graffiti on the side of a toilet stall that says “Fangoria”. So they get points for that.
The story is right out of Giallo. Four teenage druggies and two drug dealers, along with an assortment of other weird characters, are trapped inside a dilapidated Turkish Bathhouse while a gloved maniac with a penchant for stringing up, dismembering, and tossing the pieces of his victims down the toilet is on the loose.
My heart leapt with joy and I knew that this was genuine Giallo when the film began in 1958, then flash forwarded to 1982, then did another flash forward to 2001, only to end with a card reading “Seven Months Earlier”. This would look ridiculous in any other kind of film, but here it feels right at home. The characters are also function with appropriate Giallo logic, often ignoring large deadly blunt objects in order to grab inoffensive pieces of copper piping that you couldn’t swat a fly away with.
I was also incredibly excited to see that the ending had a vaguely supernatural feel to it, one that didn’t have all the balls taken out of with an explanation. For the sake of preserving a bit of mystery, I can’t explain why, but I will admit that I found myself going “Please let it be a giant cannibal baby, please let it be a giant cannibal baby!!!” at one point during the film. I was not rewarded with this sight, but I can’t say I was completely disappointed either.
Yes, “T.T. Syndrome” is loud and obnoxious, and the characters are beyond dumb, but this is what makes the genre work. This feels like a period correct Giallo film in almost every single significant way. It is so good that I hope Dario Argento watches it and feels such fury and shame that he makes the best film of his career. I miss his style, I miss his voice and I think he puttered around without any competition for too long. It made him soft.
Serbian filmmakers, by contrast, are not soft and I think they might become a force to reckon with in the horror genre. From what I’ve heard, “T.T. Syndrome” was only mildly screwed up compared to some of the really nasty films out of that country. Certainly, they’ve been inspired by enough real life horror to make a million films. After all, Serbia is a country that has been host to several wars, massacres, genocides, concentration camps and ethnic cleansings, just within the last twenty years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if audiences over there thought “T.T. Syndrome” was the equivalent of “Toy Story 3.”