Review: Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio – Touch of Death (1988)

Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio – Touch of Death (1988)

Directed by: Lucio Fulci | 81 minutes | comedy, horror | Actors: Brett Halsey, Ria de Simone, Pier Luigi Conti, Sasha Darwin, Zora Ulla Kesler, Marco Di Stefano

Are you a fan of Fulci’s horror films, which often involve hard-hitting and explicitly portrayed horror that you prefer to be confronted with? Then the storyline of this film sounds promising enough: Lester kills rich widows for their money and does not act gently. For the horror enthusiast, this, in combination with Fulci’s reputation, should guarantee the necessary successful horror scenes.

In the beginning of the film, things seem to be coming true. Evildoer Lester eats part of one of his victims, saws her to pieces with a chainsaw, puts the various body parts through the meat grinder and then feeds them to his pigs. Also at a later stage, Lester makes several victims in an unmistakable way. A smashed-in skull, spurting blood, severed limbs…

What is especially striking, however, is that the splatter content in this film is low and cannot be compared with that of Fulci’s more famous horror productions. It is true that some gruesome scenes are presented, but it remains with only a few effective horror scenes. Unfortunately, the horror of this is also canceled out by the mediocre to bad effect of various special effects, with the illustrative low point being the melting head in the microwave. Too bad for the horror junkie, but Fulci barely manages to evoke real horror in this film, although to the layman several scenes will come across as rancid enough.

Then the story around it. Fulci doesn’t always show himself as a storyteller, and that is also apparent in this film. The developments are of such a nature that things do not seem particularly realistic and credibility is quickly lost. Conversations Lester is having with a voice coming out of his tape recorder? The clumsy scenes set in the intended poisoning of one of his victims? A sadomasochistic soprano who keeps on singing happily while Lester gives her one blow after another? The excessively stupid gibberish Lester is guilty of and the questionable poses he frequently adopts? These and many other remarkable things quickly raise the question of what Fulci’s intention was in approaching this film. Is it meant as (black) humor? Satire? It is most likely that the various nonsensical scenes are intended to be humorous in whatever degree, but due to the extent to which the events are extended into the absurd, it all comes across as bland, corny and annoying. Fulci himself has stated that this film was made for Italian TV. This approach may have made the film suitable for broadcasting on television, but the question is for which target group. Because of the design of the events, in combination with the length of it, for the horror junk this film will mainly shine through missed opportunities and as a comedy or satire this film falls hopelessly short.

Further drawbacks are the pitiful performances here and there. The amateurism is particularly noticeable among the female victims of Lester. Or was this Fulci’s intention given the overall approach of this production? In that case, their poor performances do indeed fit into the film, but it mainly makes it more and more difficult to watch this whole thing any longer. In addition, because of the way in which the female characters are portrayed without exception unflattering (does Fulci perhaps hate women?) identification and/or compassion with anyone is hard to find and the most pity goes out to the house cat that is kicked across the room by Lester with plaintive meows.

The final denouement seems to be mostly symbolic, with regard to… Lester’s disturbed mind perhaps? It has to be, because if this is not the case, this cannot be taken seriously either. However, if Fulci wants to make something else clear with it, the average viewer will find it difficult or impossible to understand its meaning and it only underlines the implausibility of the developments in the story, not to say the nonsense that predominates in this film.

This Fulci film mainly comes across as a bizarre, if not to say experimental, product, which, however, hardly ever comes into its own. The only thing that makes this film worth watching in terms of horror are some successful special effects and the ice-cold indifference with which Lester makes his victims. With regard to the clearly intended humor, it comes across as so exaggerated, however, that the intended goal is not achieved at all. Only for the Fulci fans and the lovers of trash movies.

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