Qualcosa striscia nel buio (1971)
aka, Something Creeping In the Dark
Written and Directed by Mario Colucci
Starring Farley Granger, Lucia Bosé, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Stelvio Rosi, Mia Genberg, Gianni Medici, and Dino Fazio
I have a high tolerance for Italian horror cinema. Incoherent plots and terrible dubbing are par for the course, but stellar locations, inventive set pieces, and the occasional flair for lighting and cinematography are the rewards I often get for overlooking those failings. Yet every now and then I trip over a dud like Qualcosa striscia nel buio that leaves me face down in the poop juice, questioning my commitment to Sparkle Motion.
The setup is pretty decent if bog standard, basically an Old Dark House riff with some satanism sprinkled on top. One dark and stormy night a bunch of travelers take shelter in the mansion of a deceased occultist. After a seance for Lady Sheila is interrupted by a violent gust of wind, houseguests start acting strange, and the bodies start piling up. Sounds good, right? Don’t underestimate the determination of this film to bore you.
The main problem is that the film wants to play it so that the events might be supernatural but can also be just people taking advantage of the situation. There is a known killer among them, after all. If a body turns up, it can be blamed on him. The most overtly unusual event that can’t be dismissed as a dream is when all of the clocks stop at once, but since only two characters (the women) say that it happened it might be written off as hysteria.
The result is that it’s extremely unsatisfying to watch, as the story won’t commit to anything. Even old clunkers like William Castle’s The House on Haunted Hill had crazy things happen before explaining it all away as some Scooby Doo level shenanigans. But there’s no perpetrator here trying to sell the others on spooky goings-on. It’s just a bunch of people scared of the possibilities.
I’m a big fan of Gold Key comics. They made some mad stuff in the 1960s, and their series Space Family Robinson was the basis for the legendary sci-fi show Lost in Space. One of my greatest disappointments was getting my hands on their horror anthology comic Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery. It did this same routine of hinting at ghosts and magic but always leaving an out — possibly to avoid running afoul of the Comic Code Authority.
It’s just exhausting to have to willfully inject your own desire to believe into stories like this. Give us a spectacle! Show us incredible things! Meet us at least halfway! All manner of things can be glossed over and explained away at the end, if you really insist on waffling, but you can’t pull the rug out from under us if you’ve never laid the thing down.