Famed director Claudio Fragasso attempts to elevate Italian schlock cinema with his problematic thriller “NIGHT KILLER”, now on Blu-ray from Severin.
Before we get to the new Blu-ray from Severin Films, some things have to be made clear. When NIGHT KILLER was initially released, the producers of the film changed the title to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3. For Italian horror movies, it was common to connect a release of theirs to a successful American movie, i.e. ZOMBIE 2 or TERMINATOR 2, even though the movies have no real connection to the American films.
Having said that, viewers should know that NIGHT KILLER a.k.a. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 is not set in Texas, has no chainsaws, and contains zero massacres. It’s questionable whether any of the murders in the movie happened at night, but I’m not going down that road at this time.
Directed by Claudio Fragasso (credited as Clyde Anderson), with some additional scenes added and directed by Bruno Mattei in post-production, NIGHT KILLER aspires to be a psychological thriller rather than a straight horror film involving a slasher.
A rapist and killer wearing a Freddy Kreuger mask and a glove with razor sharp nails stalks and attacks a housewife, Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman), in her home. Suffering the rapist’s attack for hours, he allows her to live. Melanie recovers from her physical injuries, but the trauma of the attack has left her without any memory of the attack or the man who attacked her.
While the investigation continues, Melanie begins a dangerous and abusive relationship with Axel (Peter Hooten) that mirrors her attack in some respects. As the relationship progresses and Axel gains more control over Melanie, her memory of the attack begins to come back.
Will she remember what happened in time to escape from Axel, and will her memories reveal that Axel is the original rapist? Or will Melanie realize that the rapist is someone else and is still out there waiting for another opportunity to attack her?
NIGHT KILLER suffers due to the additional scenes added by Mattei at the behest of the producers of the film.
It opens on a ballet troupe practicing for what is destined to be an awful dance recital, judging by the dancing on screen. One of the dancers, arriving late, is the first victim of the Kreuger-masked killer. The instructor is the second victim, and this scene is troubling — not for the gore, but for the laziness in continuity.
The killer uses his razor claws to slash the instructor’s throat, which is shown in closeup. She runs away and for the entire chase scene, the slashing wound is missing. She acts as if she’s been cut across the throat, but there’s barely any blood visible and no wound as she clutches at her throat and gasps. The entire chase and kill scene is unintentionally hilarious.
Once the movie shot by Fragasso begins, it settles into the thriller it was intended to be.
Honestly, it’s not great even compared to other Italian movies of that era. NIGHT KILLER doesn’t quite immerse itself into the kind of sleaze and exploitation expected in a movie associated with Mattei and written by Rossella Drudi.
While the killer is billed as a rapist, his first two victims are not raped, and Melanie isn’t raped in the way we associate the word with the violent physical act. The rapist attacks her mind and the rape is psychological, meant to exert control over her and make her succumb to the wishes of her attacker, perhaps even love him.
Some of the scenes and dialogue are ridiculous.
In one scene, Melanie makes her way to the beach where she begins to ingest pills in hoping to commit suicide. Axel, who has been following her at this point, drags her to the ocean proclaiming that seawater is the only thing that can make her throw up the pills. He then proceeds to dunk her head into the water, repeatedly, until he feels she’s ready to throw up.
Fragasso and Drudi add a CARRIE inspired ending that is kind of cool, and shocking, but has zero set up. The twist, the terror of the final scene, comes completely out of nowhere. Just a little bit of set up would have made this a more effective ending.
I’m not expecting CITIZEN KANE from these types of movies, but NIGHT KILLER completely missed the mark on what Fragasso was trying to achieve. NIGHT KILLER isn’t so much a bad movie, which it certainly is, as much as it’s a boring movie with barely interesting characters spouting bad dialogue.
The movie has been given a 4K scan for restoration, and like past Severin releases of Italian genre movies, the picture looks amazing. It’s clear and it’s sharp, and the image is probably better quality than this movie deserves.
When Severin releases these Italian movies, I always look forward to the interviews.
No matter how much I might love the movies I’m watching, somehow the interviews with the creators are always entertaining and a must-watch.
“The Virginia Claw Massacre” is an interview with director Claudio Fragasso. He talks about filming in Virginia versus filming in Italy, discusses the reasons behind the different names he directs under, and goes into some detail about his frustration over Mattei’s additions to NIGHT KILLER.
“Mindfuck” offers a different view of NIGHT KILLER’s production issues with an interview with screenwriter Rossella Drudi.
For this interview, she decides to sit behind a drum set while talking about NIGHT KILLER. She never plays the drums, even though she’s holding drumsticks, and never explains why she’s sitting there for a movie.
Somehow it makes her interview spectacular.
I can’t get enough of her interviews. She is knowledgeable and incredibly charismatic, and she’s always doing something like sitting behind drums or holding an abnormally large cat. When I see that Severin is releasing a movie that Mattei is involved in, I immediately look to see if it includes an interview with Rossella Drudi, because that alone makes the disc a must-buy.
NIGHT KILLER is a rough movie to get through. But for collectors of Italian genre movies, this is a necessary addition to their collection. The special features, while minimal in number, include exceptional interviews with two of the movie’s creators.
A problematic movie like NIGHT KILLER still has stories about the making of the movie that can provide lessons to aspiring filmmakers and entertain fans of Italian schlock cinema.
THE SPECIAL FEATURES
- Newly scanned in 4K from the original negative
- “The Virginia Claw Massacre” — Interview with director Claudio Fragasso
- “Mindfuck” — Interview with screenwriter Rossella Drudi
- English SDH subtitles
For more information and to purchase NIGHT KILLER, visit Severin Films here.