Gelato Giallo (2015)

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Also Known As: N/A
Directed By: Bryan Martinez
Starring: Jess Ferrone, Ricky Lee Barnes, Rachel Claire, Bryan Martinez
Running Time: 6 minutes 56 seconds
Release Date: 2015
Country of Origin: USA

Synopsis: Aria, is having the worst day imaginable. Distraught after catching her boyfriend cheating on her, all Aria wants to do is go home and eat some delicious gelato. However, someone is stalking her in the shadows. Someone with an insatiable taste... for death. 

After writing my rather lengthy post on giallo and neo-gialli, I vented my frustrations to Twitter over how many of these shorts failed to capture the essence of what made the original giallo films so enjoyable. My main criticism, shared with others, was that too many of these shorts relied on garish coloured lighting, synth heavy scores and Blood & Black Lace style villains ultimately failing to bring any sort of distinctive atmosphere and feeling of horror to proceedings. Yes, the aforementioned elements are a part of the giallo/Italian horror film but bathing a film in blues and reds and setting it to a synth based piece of music doesn't make it good or particularly gialloesque. So when I came across Bryan Martinez's Gelato Giallo, a film that incorporated all of the aforementioned elements, I had my concerns, convincing myself that it would be another self indulgent poorly executed homage.

Luckily, my fears were unfounded as Martinez manages to make a film that utilises all of the above groan inducing tropes while making them feel fresh and contemporary. Martinez perfectly combines the old with the new paying homage to the Italian horrors of the past without forcing a laboured seventies style. There's nice little throw back touches throughout the film like the retro phone and the bottle of J&B but they're balanced out with more modern elements such as contemporary looking characters, a modern taxi and up to date yellow typography as used in the subtitles and credits. In that respect, Gelato Giallo reminded me of Ryan Haysom's 2012 neo-giallo Yellow in that both films seem to clearly understand the visual elements of the giallo film managing to update them for the 21st century while retaining some of the visual signifiers associated with the genre. Gelato Giallo doesn't try and emulate the gialli of decades past instead it pays homage to the giallo with a contemporary slant.

By setting up the film with our lead discovering her boyfriend has been cheating on her, we're instantly drawn into Aria's story and sympathise with her character. Jess Ferrone does a great job at portraying Aria and manages to bring the character alive in a short space of time. Ferrone has a great expressiveness to her that works well in the format of a short with minimal dialogue. My favourite character in Gelato Giallo has to be the taxi driver whose sinister voice (courtesy of Pino Cascarano) and disembodied leather clad hands brought that sort of surreal element to the film that I often associate with Italian horror. Martinez does well in sustaining an uneasy feeling throughout the short giving it a distinctive atmosphere.

One of the many elements that elevates Gelato Giallo above other neo giallo shorts is the simple yet highly effective idea of centering the film around the image of gelato. It's a nice little idea that works well in Gelato Giallo as well as in its promotion, showing that the film doesn't take itself too seriously. By centering the action around the simple act of eating some gelato, Martinez gives his short a bit of character that most neo gialli seem to lack. It's a fun, playful angle that definitely enhances the overall film.

Gelato Giallo's cinematography, at the hands of Nathan Waters, is certainly impressive and looks incredibly stylish. There's a real artistry here which again, elevates the film above its neo gialli contemporaries. The short included some creative shots that again, heightened the overall feeling and stylishness of the piece. The lighting was perhaps my favourite element of the film with the majority of the action lit in red, yellow, orange and blue rivaling the work of more accomplished giallo directors. The screens I have included in this review really showcase how incredibly well done the lighting is - lighting, may I add, that was not achieved through post production. The colours throughout the short are beautifully balanced and contrasted like the red cast over Aria as the killer lurks in the doorway or the phone set against a background of orange and purple giving the film a gorgeous, striking look.

The soundtrack to the film features an unused track from Yellow: a Neo-giallo courtesy of Antoni Maiovvi and Yellow's loss is clearly Gelato Giallo's gain as the track, Further Evidence, really heightens the mood of the film shrouding the film in a feeling of ominous dread. As I stated previously, synth soundtracks seem to be the music de rigour when it comes to neo gialli but Gelato Giallo shows why, when used effectively and scored by talented musicians such as Maiovvi, they can really make a film like Gelato Giallo come alive. I particularly enjoyed the musical nod to Goblin's Suspiria score that instantly reminded me of the music used in the aftermath of the stained glass murder scene. 

The killer's appearance in Gelato Giallo was clearly inspired by the iconic villain from Blood & Black Lace with his fedora and trench coat but the film that Gelato Giallo reminded me of the most was Dario Argento's 1977 supernatural horror, Suspiria. From the aforementioned musical nod to the bright primary colours to the wonderful taxi scene, Martinez wears his influences on his sleeve and utilises them perfectly. 

Clocking in at just under 7 minutes, the film has a tight running time but manages to effectively tell its story in this limited time. It's a real shame that budgetary constraints limited the scope of the film as it could have easily been fleshed out and turned into a longer feature. Hopefully Martinez gets the chance to extend the film and flesh out his ideas. I would love to see what Martinez could do with a longer feature as the visuals presented within Gelato Giallo were absolutely superb and showed a lot of promise. 

Gelato Giallo is up there as one of the best giallo shorts I've seen. Beautifully crafted, this loving homage perfectly captures the giallo feel while adding something modern. I'd urge fans of neo-gialli to check this one out, you won't be disappointed!

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