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Giallo (pronounced JAH-loh) is an Italian 20th century genre of literature and film. It is closely related to the French fantastique genre, crime fiction, horror fiction and eroticism.
Occhi di cristallo (pronounced Eyes of Crystal) is thrilling, gory and unflinching little import shocker, and the best example of the Giallo genre we’ve had since Dario Argento’s Opera.
Comparing Eyes of Crystal to the early work of Italian horror-master Dario Argento is obvious (hell, I just did it myself), but what Director Eros Puglielli does with his film needs to be credited to him and him alone. Puglielli has stripped the genre down to it core essentials - Grassroots Giallo if you will. By taking the classic Giallo mold (bloodletting, magnificent camera moves, unique musical arrangements) then removing the garish, Technicolor explosion of Argento’s best work (Tenebre, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), Puglielli has elevated Eyes of Crystal to something akin to an Italian version of Seven.
With his pitch-perfect composition and his masterful use of shadows and light, Puglielli has created a beautifully grotesque world to immerse his characters in – a world full of dread and nervous anticipation. Imagine watching a tight-shot of a blind mouse as it clumsily zigs and zags, slowly moving towards a tightly-set mouse trap – towards its own unsuspecting death. That’s the feeling Eyes of Crystal elicited in me.
There’s a scene early on Eyes of Crystal that, quite literally, had me sitting forward in my chair, my fingers tightening around the arm-rests. The scene takes place in the broadest of broad daylight, in an overgrown field on the edge of some polluted river. A man, a hunter, steps through the tall grass, rifle in hand, and sets a tar-trap for an unsuspecting sea-bird. The framing is tight…a little erratic. Off in the distance, a young woman rides her boyfriend; head tipped back, the sun kissing her cheeks as she nears climax. A short distance away, an old man stands, barely obscured, jacking-off to the young woman. Suddenly, the old man spies the hunter…the hunter spies back, and without so-much as a second thought, he chambers a round in to the rife, takes aim, and shoots the man dead. The woman and her boyfriend react to the gun-shot, startling the hunter…he turns to sound of their footfalls and shoots them as well, and, in that instant, the man with the rifle and the tar-trap who, moments ago was just an ordinary man out for an afternoon of snaring sea-birds, reveals himself to be a methodical, remorseless and cold-blooded murderer. It’s a brilliant set-up for a brilliant film, and one of the most shocking reveals I’ve seen since the infamous head-gives-head sequence from Haute Tension. My hat is off to you, Eros Puglielli.