The Italian slasher/thriller film genre, giallo, finds its roots in pulp novels of the 20′s and 30′s which bore an iconic yellow cover. Cinematically speaking while films such as Psycho and Peeping Tom set the groundwork, Italian film makers Mario Bava, Sergio Martino, Lucio Fulci and the king of giallo, Dario Argento, absolutely defined what a giallo film is to this very day. The 60′s and 70′s remains the quintessential era of the Italian slasher. As we made our way to the 1980′s the bottom began to fall out on the genre. By the dawn of the new millennium you could almost count the giallo output on two hands.
The late 2000′s saw our first glimmer of hope for the long dead breed of film, with the release of the French giallo Amer. The film was directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, and had all the familiar aspects in place, along with a decidedly French art-house twist. As we begin to move further into the 2010′s we are assuredly seeing signs of a resurgence of sorts with the release of Italian thriller influenced films including, Masks, Sororal and the the film that brings us here today, Ryan Haysom’s short film Yellow.
An ominous beat, which could be likened to a pulse, welcomes us to the world of Yellow. A strangely familiar synth backdrop plays over a news report of a serial killer that is on the loose. An aerial view of the bright lights of Berlin leads us into riding shotgun alongside a mysterious weathered man. We alternate views of the city from it’s highways, and a static shot of our mystery man travelling them in silence.
In a bathroom a beautiful woman cozies herself in a bubble bath. The music continues to build and we get the first glimpse of our leather clad killer. Our unsuspecting victim continues to let the water wash over her as the slasher readies a needle, which will begin the slaughter. He injects her, grabs her by her motionless head and effortlessly submerges her head underwater. He slowly brings her back up and the real fun begins. He opens her eyelid with one hand, the other holding a straight razor, and does what must be done. A Polaroid picture is taken seemingly to remember what was. We cut to the man with whom we rode earlier, exiting his car and the title of the film coming into focus front and center.
The plot of Yellow will have giallo fans right at home without question. There is a killer of women running rampant in Berlin and he has already claimed three victims. We spend our time in Yellow either sitting alongside our nameless main character (Stephen Gilbert) that appears to be looking to stop the killer, or witnessing the series of murders in a most gruesome fashion.
The performances in Yellow are absolutely pitch perfect. The characters speak not a word of dialogue on screen, and instead the small sprinklings come from radios, telephones and tape recorders. This tasks the actors with bringing across a gamut of emotions with only body language and facial mannerisms. They pull this off flawlessly and deserve major recognition for this accomplishment.
Another strong suit of the film is the score, which was created by Antoni Maiovvi. Imagine, if you will, your typical giallo synth-laden soundtrack being filtered out the back door of that dance club that you’ve heard of, but dare not step foot in and you are getting close to the aural backdrop Yellow presents. The perfect accompaniment to the music in the film is the cinematography. What Ryan Haysom and Jon Britt (Director of Photogrpahy) have created visually speaking is in a word, stunning. The neon lights of Berlin are in full effect during the duration of the short. Gaspar Noe’s masterpiece Enter the Void, and last years’s Beyond the Black Rainbow are both phenomenal reference points in terms of visual style.
Of course we are talking about a horror film, and a giallo at that, so special effects and gore are most certainly principle to the film. They were handled by German splatter king Olaf Ittenbach (The Burning Moon, Dard Divorce, Garden of Love, Premutos: Lord of the Living Dead), and trust me when I say he lives up to his title here. There are multiple moments that will have even the most seasoned horror hound wincing at what is spraying their way.
At this point it may sound as if I am gushing, and well, I kind of am. I absolutely adore the giallo film and desperate to see it take it’s rightful place at the head of the horror class. The genre has stayed nearly dormant for far too many years, and films such as this serve as an intense reminder why these films are so strong. Every facet of the film is beyond effective, and is an equal slice of the giallo pie being presented.
Yellow harkens back to classic run of giallo films of old, while also creating an identity of it’s very own. While all the fundamental pieces of the genre are in place, the film also expands on those beloved elements and ramps up the art-house vibe throughout the film. Yellow sits just as comfortably next to the cinema of fringe filmmakers like Noe, Haneke and Lynch, as it does giallo masters such as Bava, Fulci and Argento. Haysom and Britt deserve major kudos for what they have created within the confines of a 25-minute short. I anxiously await a feature length debut from the duo, and what they can create without time restraints.
YELLOW is the story of a man obsessed with hunting down a vicious serial killer committing a series of gruesome murders across the neon lit city of 1980′s Berlin.