Door into Silence (US - DVD R1)
Gabe finally sees Lucio Fulci's final film, and kind of regrets the experience...
It’s hard to explain to non-fans exactly how crushing Italian horror master Lucio Fulci’s latter career downfall was, because his work is an acquired flavour even at its best. The director’s tact, taste, and ability to tell a coherent story have always been appropriately in question, but his overwhelming technical skills when he was at his best should really be recognized even by unbelievers. It’s probably easiest to compare him to other horror/thriller personalities like John Carpenter and Brian DePalma. Remember how great Carpenter and DePalma were in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s? Remember how bad they got later? Well picture Ghosts of Mars or Mission to Mars shot on shoestring budgets, negating any possibility of fleeting glimpses of interesting visuals, and then age up the directors to the point of knocking on death’s door, and you might have an inkling of how utterly depressing Fulci’s last handful of films were.
For his final feature (and it was a distinct possibility that Fulci knew this was going to be his final feature based on his ailing health), the maestro returns once again to America. The locations are often mixed up a bit (you can’t drive to the North East from New Orleans via Highway One from the Keys), but do offer a bit of atmosphere and production value to the otherwise empty and cheap feature. It’s clear Fulci and producer Aristide Massaccesi (also known under his sleazy pseudonym Joe D’Amato) intended Door into Silence to pass for an American budget production, and had it been made in 1978 instead of 1991 they might’ve gotten away with it, at least a little. Besides the fashion and car models everything about the production screams late seventies, except, of course, the camera work, which screams ‘I found a camcorder in the basement, guys! Let’s make a movie’. Featuring John Savage as a lead is a continuation of these themes, as his involvement would’ve been more impressive a decade prior (though one would think his then recent involvement with Do the Right Thing would’ve meant he had more prospects than this). Savage’s listless acting style actually fits in quite well with Fulci’s stilted actor’s universe, but when the director’s visuals aren’t up to task the non-effort is pretty moot.
The big problem here, one that makes Door Into Silence actually less enjoyable than even Fulci’s shlockiest STV efforts of the era, is the utter lack of horror or suspense. At about 25 minutes into the 87 minute feature Fulci finally offers up a set piece – Savage tries to pass a slow moving hearse on the road to a very ill-defined location, and the vehicle’s driver refuses to relent. After each go-nowhere scene the hearse returns, and another vague and seemingly pointless ‘chase’ ensues. It’s kind of like Spielberg’s Dual, minus any entertainment value. Savage’s consistent car trouble (it breaks down, it becomes trapped on the bridge, is trapped in the muck of a swamp, etc) seems to mean something to Fulci, but to an audience these endless scenes are about as thrilling as actually finding oneself in a broken down car in the middle of nowhere. Most fans will probably see where the story is heading based on the director’s more well known, EC Comic inspired thrillers (the film might have worked as a one hour Tales from the Crypt episode), but rather than discovering terror at the climax will likely discover the sweet release of this endless car trip finally being over. It’s hard to stare at one’s naval this long.
Fulci works so well in anamorphic framing it’s always a bummer to see him working in the video friendly 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The transfer’s biggest shortcoming is the constant reddening of blacks, a common ailment for older productions that have been damaged by time. It’s likely that Severin didn’t have the means to give the print a full overhaul, and just as likely that the negative was beyond further repair. Artefacts aren’t a huge concern, but print damage and scratches are present throughout. The transfer’s overall details are definitely better than VHS copies of the film, aided by the uncharacteristically bright photography. Colours are a bit washed out, and full-bodied hues feature a little bit of blooming and low-level noise. Overall the print is pretty inconsistent, but perfectly adequate for the film.
This disc is retrofitted with an early video friendly two channel mono mix. The actual sound is thin, but plays a pretty important role, and is probably the film’s strongest suit. One might even say that the thinness of the film’s soundscape adds to the overall dreamy atmosphere Fulci was likely trying to achieve. Often a single sound will define an entire sequence, as if that sound is all that exists at the time, as happens when one dreams and the dream doesn’t fill in the unnecessary gaps. Franco Piana’s score is another big plus, encompassing a myriad of styles, from electronic keyboard work, to various forms of jazz, and even some Arab inspired cues. Everything is a bit muddled on the track, including the dialogue, which features inconsistent volume levels within a single scene, but again, this is perfectly adequate given the film itself.
Unfortunately there’s nothing here in terms of special features.
Door into Silence is really for Fulci fans alone, and even most of us won’t like it very much. The man went out on a better technical note than expected (his work over the last decade or so of his life was often plagued with shocking dollops of technical ineptitude), but this feature is lacking any shock, drama, tension, or even minor thrills. Of course this disc is going to sit on my shelf proudly as I continue to fill in my Fulci collection, but I don’t see myself watching it again, and imagine most of the director’s other fans will feel the same way. Severin does a decent job with the disc’s video and audio, which is likely as good as we can expect from the source material, but don’t supply us with any extras.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 30th June 2009
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono English
Easter Egg: No
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: John Savage, Sandi Schultz, Richard Castleman
Length: 87 minutes
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