Door into Silence (1991)

a.k.a. - Le porte del silenzio

Lucio Fulci's final production is a long and slow horror film starring John Savage. Severin Films US R1 DVD.

The Film

From a solid if unremarked director in the 1960s, Lucio Fulci had become a respected giallo director in the 1970s and an infamous horror auteur in the early 1980s, but a run of barrel-scrapingly poor films at the end of the decade, combined with the decline in European cinema, had left him without work. In 1991 exploitation veteran Joe D'Amato offered Fulci a directing role that would become his cinematic swansong.

Melvin Devereux (John Savage) visits his father's tomb and is heading home when he meets an unusual woman whom he cannot place. As he drives home through the countryside around New Orleans, he encounters her again as well as a hearse driver who seems determined to drive him off the road - on closer inspection the coffin in the back of the hearse seems to bear his name...

Fulci himself penned the story and screenplay (taking credit under the Americanised moniker of Jerry Madison) and the film is instantly remniscent of his most famous horror work, The Beyond (1981) thanks to its Louisiana setting, which allows for some long and unnaturally desolate driving sequences. Rather like his earlier work, the script manages to create an unsettling, nightmarish atmosphere, however while The Beyond didn't go anywhere fast, Door into Silence simply doesn't go anywhere at all. It is really hard to tell what Fulci was trying to acheive with the script - the long driving sequences do create an effective feeling, like in a dream, that you can never get where you are trying to go, while the mysterious female character and the hearse provide a genuine level of confusion and uncertainty that you want to see resolved (the scenes with the hearse in particular bring to mind Spielberg's impressive Duel (1971)).

However, he obviously didn't trust this to be enough to keep the film moving and so there are a number of completely unnecessary scenes for padding as Melvin gets his car stuck on a bridge, pulled over by police, picks up a hitch-hiker, gets threatened by a hunter and several more that serve only to pull the viewer out of the effective atmosphere previously built up. One scene in particular where Melvin ends up in a court-room completely destroys any logic that the storyline had (if nothing else, they are prepared to let him drive away despite fining him for being drunk). A neat moment where the film looked to be descending into pure horror is quickly and disappointingly revealed to be nothing more than a dream sequence. Fulci doesn't seem to have thought too much of his audience's intellegence either and the film has several unnecessary exposition lines to explain what is going on, culminating in a completely daft denoument at the film's conclusion that seems to have been stolen from a horror spoof and completely lets the ending down (although any horror fans should have guessed the "twist" from the first frames of the film).

Just as Fulci's name doesn't appear in the director credit (for the only time in his career he is Americanised on all prints, appearing as H. Simon Kittay) so his style doesn't appear in the directoral role and despite the ever increasing reliance that his 1980s films had shown on visceral gore, this production is completely bloodless. Similarly, despite exploitation master Joe D'Amato working as producer (himself credited as John Gelardi), the film boasts nothing more than a tease of nudity. The scenery and the driving scenes are well filmed and the film as a whole looks quite good (although the hearse scenes do use some obvious sped-up footage), but it could have been directed by anyone and without knowing beforehand who was behind the Americanised pseudonyms it would have been impossible to guess. The soundtrack is an odd mix of synthesised score and typical New Orleans jazz which works in some places but seems completely inappropriate in others.

American actor John Savage takes the leading role and gets a lot to do, being rarely off the screen through the entire runtime. Fortunately he gives his all to the project and his performance is a key factor in keeping the film enjoyable. The rest of the parts are played well despite the lack of recognisable names (the hearse driver is listed as as Richard Castleman, also the film's location scout in his only credited acting part).

Door into Silence makes a poor swansong for a director whose earlier work is often ranked in the top echelons of Italian horror cinema. The film was not without potential, the direction has none of Fulci's trademarks but is quite effective and the script has some great ideas, but desperate attempts to pad it out to a feature runtime completely fail and it often becomes tiresome, with a real let down of an ending, it would have been much more effective as a 30 or 50 minute television production. Certainly of interest to Lucio Fulci fans, just don't expect any of the talent that made him so popular.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? John Savage - an American actor, best known for his role in grim Vietnam War movie The Deer Hunter (1978)
Directed by anyone interesting? Lucio Fulci - an Italian director made famous by his gory horror films Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) and The Beyond (1981) and his Giallo films including Sette note in nero (1977) and New York Ripper (1982)
Any gore or violence ? None
Any sex or nudity? A short sex sequence with a lot of clevage but no nudity.
Is it scary? A lot of effective atmosphere is built up but frequently lost by unnecessary scenes.
Who is it for? Amicus and horror fans in general might enjoy this.

Visuals Aspect ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colour.
Aspect ratio seems correct, the film was intended for video and television distribution
Print looks good, with strong detail and colours. Some external shots have a strange mottled effect which probably dates from the original filming.
Audio English original mono, sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras None.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Available from Raro in Italy with English and Italian audio, fullscreen print. Japanese DVD has English audio but forced Japanese subtitles, also a fullscreen print.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is English langauge.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 17th August 2009
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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