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Night Screams For Mercy (Graphic Novel Review)

06.19.2015by: Jake Dee

ORDER NIGHT SCREAMS FOR MERCY HERE

PLOT: In October of 1972, a rash of grisly murders have besieged an unnamed western Italian city. Laconic detective Claudio Morante is assigned to solve the case of the infamous Jesus Killer, yet the closer he gets to the crimes, the worse he is for wear. What gives?

REVIEW: As a longtime adorer of the Giallo subset of Italian horror cinema, I was quite agog to learn I'd be getting chance to read and dish my two cents about a short-form graphic novel that pays heartfelt homage to the subgenre. NIGHT SCREAMS FOR MERCY, written by Hannu Kessola and illustrated by Jussi Piironen, is just that! With a glowing intro by the great Eric Red (peep his new book here), NIGHT SCREAMS paints a vivid if truncated vignette about a gruff Italian detective tasked with solving the case of the Jesus Killer, a shadowy figure who's been dismembering big titted woman around western Italy. With haunting black and white imagery and intricate sketch-work, even if a bit derivative, fans of graphic horror novels and Giallo fans alike are sure to enjoy the twisted echoes of NIGHT SCREAMS FOR MERCY. I sure did.

As page one is peeled back, a woman makes a feeble escape from the clutches of a cold blooded murderer, only to end up gorily crucified on the floor of a church. The Jesus Killer - as the creepily masked and knife-wielding culprit is ignominiously branded - could be religiously motivated, but it's still unclear. That's where our laconic antihero Claudio Morante enters the scene - a curt, chain-smoking detective who pines for, and ultimately gets the chance to, investigate the string of baleful slaughters. But you know what they say, careful of what you wish for. Soon Morante is plunged headlong into the case, where a ghastly new murder is discovered daily. As the action intensifies, Morante is beset by a bleary-eyed stint of somnolence where - be it the booze, stress, long hours, or all of the above - is struggling to remain awake during the daytime.

I'll hand it off to you now to find out how it all unfolds, but I will say this. The predictability of the outcome is entirely predicated on how well versed in Giallo fiction you are. If you've lived and breathed this kind of thing, be it on the page or on the screen, you'll likely sniff out the result. But if you're a casual fan of the form, or even a tyro, you're more likely to be struck upside the dome-piece by where the story ends up. Of course, as a graphic novel, the narrative is just half of the package. where the book succeeds most I think is in the stark imagery - spare and haunting - that accompanies the stories. Augments it. The artwork is essentially inked-sketchings, and there's a minimalism that cuts right to the core of the horror depicted. No needless bells and whistles, just simple yet effective complimentary illustration.

The only real problem I had with the book is that it's too short. I wanted more. Just when I started to find the groove, the story was over. Also, and this goes back to what was mentioned above, I personally could see exactly where the story was heading. As a fan of Bava, Fulci and Argento, I've come to know and identify the many cool and creepy tenets of Giallo fiction. I mean, I absolutely adore flicks like BAY OF BLOOD, DEEP RED, THE NEW YORK RIPPER, TORSO, TENEBRE, STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER, on and on. If you do too, you may also foresee where NIGHT SCREAMS FOR MERCY is destined. But so what, it's less about the ins and outs of the story and more about the feel or experience while reading. In that regard, Kessola and Piironen have recreated a palpable Giallo vibe that's sure to sate your bloodlust.

ORDER NIGHT SCREAMS FOR MERCY HERE

Extra Tidbit: What's your favorite Giallo film?

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