Review: Into the Labyrinth
- Donato Carrisi’s horror thriller starring Toni Servillo, Dustin Hoffman and Valentina Bellè is a mishmash of pseudo-Hollywoodian references
What’s the first rule of horror thriller films? Never use the iconic mask worn by Ghostface in Scream, or the hockey version worn by Jason in Friday the 13th, or those worn by Michael Myers in Halloween, by Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or by Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. And if you’re a director of a more intellectual disposition, never dress the murderer up as a rabbit, Donnie Darko style, or, worse, as the tremendous Giant Death Rabbit in Sexy Beast. But it is this very rule which writer Donato Carrisi goes on to break as he tries his hand behind the camera once more with another of his bestsellers, Into the Labyrinth [+see also:
film profile], following his first incursion into film direction in 2017 with La Ragazza nella Nebbia [+see also:
film profile]. An evil rabbit with heart-shaped eyes isn’t the only film reference to feature in his latest work, which is bound to draw in audiences thanks to Toni Servillo and Dustin Hoffman’s presence in the cast, but which is likely to disappoint more dedicated fans of the genre.
Slipping once again into the shoes of an investigator under Carrisi’s direction, Servillo plays Bruno Genko, a private detective in not so great a state, whose days are numbered on account of a fatal heart infection recently diagnosed by his doctors. “Before, I never asked myself what I was doing. Now I do because I’m dying”, he explains, justifying his transition from the field of debt collection to the not-so-easy task of pursuing a monster; a monster who has held Samantha Andretti (Valentina Bellè) captive for fifteen years, having abducted her as she made her way to school one winter’s morning, shutting her in a labyrinth and forcing her to solve a Rubik’s Cube in exchange for her survival (more or less cloning the Saw franchise rather than just referencing it). Now Samantha is free and convalescing in a hospital room, with no memory of what happened to her. Sat beside her is Doctor Green (Hoffman), a professional “profiler” charged with helping the police track down her abductor. “The hunt doesn’t begin out there. It begins in your mind”, he whispers to the young woman.
Engaged in this two-sided game of chase – full of twists and plot reversals which don’t always make sense or surprise the viewer – is “missing persons” detective Simon Berish (Vinicio Marchioni), a prostitute with bleach-blond hair (Caterina Shulha) who’s also a collector of unicorns - a reference to Blade Runner, a pair of decidedly over-the-top detectives who speak as if straight out of some kind of hard-boiled, 1930s set-up, an eerie elderly lady (think witch-based horror film), a young priest and an old sexton (think ecclesiastically-themed horror film), a creepy dentist, a missing detective, an absinthe drinking (!) comic book expert with an exaggerated French accent, played by the brilliant Chilean comic actor Luis Gnecco, and, of course, The Rabbit Man.
The story is set in a non-place somewhere along the lines of the Louisiana of True Detective (wetlands, intense heat and Pentecostal sermons broadcast on the radio allude directly to the US TV series), a neon-lit metropolis filled with intensely coloured environments (courtesy of comedy director of photography Federico Masiero who has joined forces with Carrisi once again), many of which have been digitally constructed. As far as time is concerned, modern technology intermingles with objects from years gone by. As we watch Into the Labyrinth, we feel as if faced with some kind of cinephile puzzle, which takes the form of a dark, highly coloured and deliberately naïve comic book. Whereas La ragazza nella nebbia’s script tackled themes such as media manipulation and religious radicalism and sought to offer an Italian version of the international thriller genre, here, it’s more a case of pure horror entertainment with no specific idea behind the film’s direction. Instead, Carrisi limits himself to accumulating forced references (we’d forgotten about allusions to Dario Argento, Twin Peaks, The Shining…) in this pseudo-Hollywoodian mishmash.
(Translated from Italian)
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