(Gianfranco Giagni, 1988)
The Spider Labyrinth stands as one of the few truly enjoyable Italian horror films of the late 80's, a time when the genre had all but disappeared. Sadly, it is also one of the most overlooked, and has only recently had a proper North American DVD release.
It tells the tale of Professor Alan Whitmore, an expert on ancient religions who is sent to Budapest to track down colleague Professor Roth, whose correspondences have mysteriously ceased. In Budapest, Alan is greeted by Roth's lovely secretary Genevieve, whose warm character differs greatly from the secretive, suspicious townsfolk, and she takes him to see Prof Roth.
Alan and the professor don't get much time to converse, however, as they are interrupted when a black, stone-like object is thrown through a window. Roth, obviously fearing more than he's willing to let on to Alan, advises him to return later that evening so he can tell of what secrets he's discovered. When Alan returns at the appointed time, he discovers that Professor Roth has been found hanged in his study, and his corpse covered in silk web.
As Alan probes into the professor's studies and cause of demise, he finds himself frequently misled and maligned by the townsfolk. Anyone who volunteers information is brutally murdered soon after by a shrieking, frizzy-haired spider-woman, and Alan soon comes to suspect that almost no one can be trusted. Little does he know that he is just a fly on an ancient spider cult's web that spans not just the community, but the entire world.
It's truly a shame that Gianfranco Giagni hadn't directed more horror films, as The Spider Labyrinth is one lost gem. The special effects by Sergio Stivaletti, though a bit rubbery by today's standards, are gruesome and, dare I say, truly unique. Can you say you've ever seen a woman spit a string of web out of her mouth and pull someone into the rafters with it? The end/ reveal, which I will not divulge, is truly warped and disgusting, and very much over the top.
Another plus, I must mention, is the Argento-esque use of colored lighting and stark, eery compositions. Many a scene will remain embedded in the viewer's mind thanks to the stylish photography, orchestral score, and the nightmarish logic of the proceedings. I highly recommend this title, and it IS available here.
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