Durham's Retrofantasma Film Series has been bringing the campiest, goriest cult-horror movies back into local theaters over the past few years. Curators Matt Pennachi and partner in gore Adam Hulin revel in exposing Triangle moviegoers to obscure Italian slasher flicks, and have managed to make directors like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci semi-household names. This Friday, August 22, Retrofantasma will host a double feature at the Carolina Theatre, screening Argento's classic Demons along with Fulci's Zombie.
Argento burst onto the Italian cinema scene in 1967 by co-authoring Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West. He then ventured out on his own as a director, releasing blood-soaked noir thrillers. Unlike most of his films' American equivalents, Argento's creations, however dated they may now seem, are stylish contributions to the horror genre. Directed by Lamberto Bava, Demons involves a movie that turns its viewers into flesh-eating demons--the screenwriter was not without a sense of irony.
Unloved by critics, Fulci and his undead-themed films are adored by serious fans of the zombie corpus. Zombie (1979; titled Zombi 2 upon release the U.S.) is a beautifully filmed and yes, ridiculously gory, masterpiece of special effects and makeup. Fulci's creations are laughable and psychologically disturbing; the cannibalistic scenes in Zombie are as unsettling, if not more, than anything David Lynch and Cronenberg have concocted. And there's even an underwater fight scene between a zombie and a real shark. As with most Retrofantasma features, only the corniest movie previews from the 80s (Tron, The Fog, etc.) precede the films.