LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! The Crypt Monster (Il Mostro Della Cripta) is a Giallo-infused Stranger Things, blending Italian horror with a healthy dose of nostalgia. Set in the sleepy little town of Bobbio, Italy, which in young Gio’s (Tobia De Angelis) eyes is the “b******e of the universe,” with a “population of 3,644, 1,500 cows, 23 births and 52 deaths…most out of boredom.” He passes the time by directing homemade horror flicks with the help of his fellow misfit friends and by anxiously awaiting the latest edition of “Squad 666,” a comic from his favorite artist Deigo Busirivici (Pasquale Petrolo). Its pages depict a creature hidden in a sarcophagus in the bowels of a church that looks strikingly similar to the one in their tiny town. Gio and his pal Albrino (Nicola Branchini) decide to open it, only to find it empty.
Meanwhile, the town begins to experience a number of strange events that seem to mirror the comics, including a death for which Gio is wrongfully blamed. Fearful that the local police may be in on it, he decides to enlist the help of the illustrator of the comic, as he seems to possess some prophetic ability. Unfortunately, Diego’s powers of prognostication are the result of old manuscripts he purchased at a flea market and copied into comic form. However, he’s still quite game to help his number-one fan get down to the root of this rash of murders.
“…a creature hidden in a sarcophagus in the bowels of a church…”
In 2017, director Daniele Misischia demonstrated how he could wring tension from a limited budget and location with the zombie thriller The End?. That feature was shot almost entirely in an elevator car. With The Crypt Monster, the filmmaker is given a considerably larger budget and the help of the Manetti Brothers (Love and Bullets, the upcoming Diabolik) as writers and producers. Misischia has spent the budget wisely, providing the production with some top-notch practical effects that pay loving homage to the VHS horror heyday of its 1980s setting.
Several characters are disposed of creatively and impressively, and the titular monster design is impressively creepy. Equally, its cast is buoyant and invested in their respective roles, from the fresh-faced eagerness of De Angelis to Branchini’s curmudgeonly harumphing. The film ping-pongs around from Giallo to slasher and from ancient demonic possession to alien invasion without seeming too schizophrenic. With such a grab-bag of gore for inspiration, it’s a shame the film missed so many narrative opportunities to bring its characters into a tighter story, rather than popping up at conveniently random times. It’s this missing ingredient that withholds The Crypt Monster from earning cult-like status.
Recent smaller-budgeted gems such as Psycho Goreman and Werewolves Within have demonstrated how sharp writing can solidify a seemingly unwieldy blend of genres and subgenres and produce an appealing pastiche of matinee mayhem. If Monster had woven its characters into a tighter bundle, it could easily win over a larger following. That said, The Crypt Monster is still to be admired for its style, energy, and dedication to its forefathers in fright.
The Crypt Monster (Il Mostro Della Cripta) screened at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival.
"…top-notch practical effects that pay loving homage to the VHS horror heyday..."