Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Rating: 7 out of 10

Oh, my, but I do love a nice taste of Italian giallo film. "Bird With the Crystal Plummage," "What Have They Done to Solange?", "Autopsy" and the like all have a warm place in my heart. The atmosphere of unpredictable violence, the threat that one of the main characters may indeed be the killer and the total aura of a nightmare gone horribly wrong make each of these films thrilling. And, as a testosterone-enabled person, I can never find fault in the many lush women featured in these films.

Sadly, these films have faded from the public eye. Yes, they are still out there on DVD, but you don't hear about these things unless you look for them. It's not as if you'll find J.Lo in a big-budget modern version of this genre (Thank the heavens!). Fans of the genre have to be happy with the efforts from the past, and just try to get through the day.

Here's where Ron Ford enters the picture. I've had the pleasure of reviewing a few of Ron's other films. From these films, I know that he is a lifetime fan of horror cinema. His "Hollywood Mortuary" is a tribute to the classic Universal horrors of the 30's and 40's. "The Crawling Brain" delves into the dopey Fifties monster films while mixing in the early Seventies Al Adamson sleaze factor. Each uses the old styles as a base on which to weave demented films of modern humor and weirdness.

Now, "Dead Season" uses the themes that Mario Bava and Dario Argento built their legends upon and runs in a new direction.

Lucas Swan is a one-hit wonder in the publishing field, having written an account of a series of murders that took place in a seaside town a number of years ago. He has crawled into a hole of his own creation and prays inspiration does not strike again. Into his closed universe drops an adoring fan who feels she will be Swan's personal Muse. Oddly enough, inspiration strikes Swan again, and a whole new series of murders begin.

Ford's style often has an air of camp about it. This time around, he has toned that down. Oh, sure, there is the goofy retarded groundskeeper, played by Mr. Ford himself, and Randal Malone's trademark star performance that weaves from mostly serious to calling down the spirit of Divine (John Waters' favorite cross-dresser, for those who don't know). But the overall tone is darker than his other homages, and the story, though occasionally stretching the limits of credibility, sticks to the mystery.

It may seem as though I am picking at "Dead Season". I'm not. I have never considered Ron Ford's films as intended to run against the slick, over-polished Hollywood product out there. He makes the film happen on the amount of money I probably piss away on Starbuck's drinks each year. And while that is enough money that I'm embarrassed to admit I spend, it seems an insanely small amount to use to make a film, yet that is what Mr. Ford does. He does it well enough that you tend to forget the quibbles you might have with acting in a scene or two or the lucky coincidences in the script. You find yourself wondering how the hell is this whole thing gonna work out, or hoping a certain character gets out of a tight spot. He makes loopy fun out of next to nothing. In the end, even if you didn't really like it much, you have to admit you were entertained. You can't help it. And that is what makes me look forward to the next Ron Ford film.

Put your brain in a comfy chair, count the oddball old-school film riffs and see if you don't find youself smiling at least once during the giallo-tinged insanity of "Dead Season".

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