Director – Pupi Avati
Cast – Lino Capolicchio, Francesca Marciano, Gianni Cavina, Giulio Pizzirani, Bob Tonelli, Ferdinando Orlandi, Pietro Brambilla, Vanna Busoni
Release Year – 1976
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is a film that I HAD to see solely because of its awesome title, although I admit that it being an Italian horror film from the 70s was an added benefit. Much like Dario Argento’s The Bird With The Crystal Plummage, The House With Laughing Windows is a film who’s unique title actually plays a strong role in the film. Aided by unique visuals, great kills, and a haunting story, this is a film sure to please fans of the giallo sub-genre.
Stefano is a young artist commissioned to restore a painting in an old church in a village still recovering from the Nazi occupation during WWII. The painting is a fresco representing the suffering of St. Sebastian, a fresco painted by a mentally disturbed painter named Legnani who specialized in painting people who were near death. As Stefano begins to restore the painting he is constantly bombarded with obstacles and eerily threatening phone calls, as well as mysterious deaths of those around him. Someone is opposed to Legnani’s painting being restored, and Stefano’s perseverance will lead him down a path to experiencing Legnani’s horrors.
I can honestly never tire of these 70s Italian giallo films. The storylines are always awesome, and I really enjoyed the story for this film because of the atmosphere it created. Working in a creepy old church was a nice setting for Stefano to have to spend his working days, and setting the film in an old and secluded village only added to the helplessness he will feel when things get going. The idea of an outsider heading to a new area to work is something that I have always enjoyed because it allows me to put myself in his/her shoes, meaning that I am as much “in the dark” over their new surroundings as they are. The mystery behind what is going on with Legnani’s painting is captivating, and includes much history over the person that he was and the dark secrets that he kept. We get many great twists and turns that come about, including the usual “final twist” at the end of most giallo films, and in this film’s case it was a very satisfying one. My only major gripe with the story was that for a film that runs 110 minutes I expect to see more kills paced throughout the film. There were long periods between kills that left me feeling the pacing was a bit off, and had there been at least two more kills inserted evenly between the other kills, which weren’t many, then the film would have flowed better.
Director Pupi Avati did a fine job bringing this film to screen, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere that he employed. The sets are unique and spooky, which included not only the church but basically every room that Stefano is occupying. As the film goes on it moves to gloomier and gloomier sets, which was a nice touch given the growing darkness that is surrounding Stefano. The kills were well executed and delivered some decent gore, although the majority of them were a bit tame in nature. I did not find this to be a huge problem because I felt they were well used and executed, but those of you expecting to see the awesome gore employed in Dario Argento’s films will not get what you are looking for.
Overall, this is a positive and awesomely-titled giallo film that delivers a unique story and some great mystery. The atmosphere is great thanks to Pupi Avati’s execution, although be prepared for the film to come off a bit slow at times thanks to a low number of kills for a film of this length.