The roughly 500 Italian films that fall under the gruesome banner of “giallo” all share a few identifying characteristics. There’s a vivacious, scantily clad female lead. There’s the protagonist, usually male, who’s sucked into a bloody conspiracy he can neither comprehend nor control. There’s a murder mystery plotline, driven forward not by police investigation or rational deduction, but by strange twists involving dreams, insanity or psychic powers. And then there are the villains themselves: Mysterious and murderous, faces obscured, clad in heavy leather overcoat, wielding a hatchet or a cutthroat razor.
But perhaps the surest mark of the giallo is the way they look, sound and feel. With their lavish sets, sumptuous soundtracks and saturated colours — seldom has spilled blood looked quite so rich — they’re a feast for the senses: Slasher flicks, shot like romances. The giallo aesthetic has proven timeless, as evidenced by a string of recent big screen homages, including Tulpa, Yellow and Peter Strickland’s meta-giallo Berberian Sound Studio.