The Killer Reserved 9 Seats (1974)

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Also Known As: L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone
Directed by: Giusseppe Bennati
Starring: Rosanna Schiaffino,Chris Avram, Eva Czemerys 
Running Time: 99 minutes
Release Year: 1974
Country of Origin: Italy

Weyhey! It's Patrick Davenant's birthday! Unlike mere mortals such as you and I, Patrick doesn't do dinner at a cheap steak house and drinks, Patrick likes to invite all his adversaries and hangers on to the massive theater he owns because he's Patrick fucking Davenant and it's his birthday! Only things don't quite go to plan for dearest Patrick when a crazed masked murderer starts dispatching the party guests (how rude) and starts ruining all of the festivities and when I say festivities I mean, the awkward interactions between people who clearly hate one another and are using Patrick's party as a way of backstabbing one another because they've got nothing better to do on a Saturday night.

Patrick, what glorious hair you have!
It's a pretty simple premise loosely based on the Agatha Christie story "10 Little Indians" but with a heavy injection of giallo so tits, titilating lesbianism and lashings of violence. I was really looking forward to watching this because giallo fans always seem to talk it up but I'm going to be frank here, I kind of hated it and have only given it a generous rating of 2 stars because I loved the villain's appearance and the setting of an old, grand theater. The acting is ropey, the motivations for the characters doing anything are fucking awful and I'm judging this against giallo standards so you know we're scraping the barrel here. There's a horrendous supernatural element near the end that makes no sense and there's a cringe inducing naked dance scene among other sins committed to celluloid.

The film features some great fashion like this net sleeve dress
The film's directed by Giusseppe Bennati - a director with only ten credits to his name with The Killer Reserved 9 Seats being his only giallo/horror film and unfortunatly it really shows. I originally viewed this film from a grainy Greek bootleg and thought it looked flat and dull and sadly as great as Camera Obscura's release of the film is, it can't compensate for the dull cinematography - the film still looks bland and lacks the stylishness of other gialli. The majority of giallos feel very of their time filled with lavish 70s sets and fashion but The Killer Reserved 9 Seats appears to have a lot more in common with the gialli of the 60s with an almost gothic, hammer horror like feel. The Killer Reserved 9 Seats was filmed in the amazing Gentile Theater in Fabriano and looks absolutely stunning but the setting isn't always utilised in the best way with many scenes taking place in small rooms and narrow corridors that could be anywhere. The murder set pieces are well done and have a certain amount of flare to them but there's really nothing going on in between them which makes for a frustrating, dull viewing experience. There's far too many tedious conversations that do nothing to further the plot or give us a better sense of the characters and the constant talkie nature of the film completely ruins the pacing making it feel slow and boring. The characters, on the whole, are unlikable with Rosanna Schiaffino as Vivian and Chris Avram as Patrick Davenant being the two exceptions. The rest of the cast are there to be offed and used as red herrings which is typical of the giallo but the cardboard cut out nature of the characters makes for a dull viewing experience. Furthermore, the character motivations are so idiotic even by giallo standards, that it makes for a frustrating watch - characters wander off alone down dark twisting corridors and empty parts of the theater for no real reason. In one ridiculous scene, a female character tries to track down the killer by herself for no reason other than her getting offed. Overall, Avram and Schiaffino do well with the material but the rest of the cast are sub par and do little to elevate the questionable script.

Lost my friend so I better wander the abandoned theater all by myself to find her...
Furthermore, if the acting and ropey plot weren't bad enough, the music in the film is, wait for it... dull! Its generic 70s lounge music that drones on and on and never varies. After a while you get sick to the back teeth of listening to it and want to claw out your own eardrums to make it stop. I've never been bothered by the music in a giallo as much as the soundtrack in this. I don't know what's worse; the soundtrack or listening to the characters bicker among themselves while a guy in a dodgy mandarin collar whitters on about 70s style spiritualism (I can't remember his character's name or why he was there because I had to use brain bleach after his scenes).

The highlight of the film is definitely the killer - his sinister mask with bushy eyebrows and blonde curly hair makes for one of the more memorable giallo villains of the 70s. Our killer looks suitably sinister wearing a creepy fixed expression as he hunts down and dispatches his victims. The motivations of the killer are slightly convoluted - you're thinking the film is going to go down the conventional murder - red herring - reveal route but instead it throws a rather large supernatural curveball that seems to involve incest, an evil plot and a "it was all a dream" ending or was it? The supernatural angle was completely unnecessary and I'm still confused as to what exactly happened during the last 20 minutes of the film. My feelings are that if Bennati had focused more on making a solid giallo rather than getting bogged down in a supernatural twist than this film would have been much better. 

Careful, that fag might set those glorious eyebrows alight
So there you have it, in my opinion The Killer Reserved 9 Seats is definitely not one of the better gialli and sits at the bottom of the pile for me. I'd say check it out in support of the brilliant Camera Obscura so they can keep putting out some lesser known gialli but otherwise I'd ignore this tedious giallo that does little to stand out in the genre. 


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