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October 6, 2009

A Whisper in the Dark

1976, Dir. by Marcello Aliprandi.

Italian horror films of the late 1960s-1980s are generally known for being bloody slashers full of splatter and extremely red blood. You'll see me talking about a few of them by month's end. A Whisper in the not one of those movies. In fact, there could be debate as to whether or not it's actually a horror film.

A Whisper in the Dark tells the tale of a presumably wealthy Italian family whose 12 year old son Martino has a close relationship with an imaginary friend named Luca. What's eerie about this is that when Martino tells someone Luca will punish them...something bad usually happens. First it's his little sisters that notice it, then his parents start to get in on the action, and before you know it Luca's got everyone in the house holding their breath in fear. Or does he?

Like many haunted house films from the past, as well as more recent examples like The Others, A Whisper in the dark focuses on atmosphere and building the characters' fear through their interactions with each other. Martino's parents, played by John Phillip Law (Diabolik himself!) and Nathalie Delon (who's really freakin' hot) are key to the story, as a deep family secret soon comes out. Plus the family soon brings in a famous "doctor" to work with Martino, and he's played by the late, great Joseph Cotten. The talent of these actors really gives the film depth, but it's the young Allesandro Poggi as Martino who really hold the film together. Unlike the young girls playing his twin sisters, he does a fantastic job for a child actor.

The final act goes a little off the rails, leading to an inconclusive ending that I'm still unsure about. I like the implication the film makes that plays the potentially supernatural events against their family's own demons, but the way the primary conflict involving Delon's character plays out is pretty goofy. The open-ended final scene is probably a big reason this film has gone so unseen, as well.

I liked A Whisper in the Dark's attempts to build tension, and the film looked and sounded great. I'm not sure the plot turned out entirely how I'd want it to, but that doesn't detract from its value much. I'm not sure I'll give this one another viewing for a long time, but I respected its efforts, so I'll call it a Prime Choice.

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