A remote Italian village harbors unspeakable secrets, as young Stefano ("The Garden of the Finzi-Continis'" Lino Capolicchio) discovers when he arrives to restore a local church's decaying, painted fresco depicting the sla... more »ughter of St. Sebastian. Townspeople whisper that the original artist painted directly from real life, with models tortured and murdered all in the name of art. Suddenly a new, terrifying chain of murders begins, and Stefano finds himself caught in a chilling web of madness and unspeakable horror from which he may never escape! This exquisite masterpiece of Italian horror seethes with menacing atmosphere and diabolical plot twists guaranteed to haunt your dreams. Never before released in America, "The House with Laughing Windows" (La casa dalle finestre che ridono) is the crowning achievement of internationally hailed director Pupi Avati (The Story of Boys and Girls, Zeder) and has been restored to its full gothic glory from the original camera negative.« less
"THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS (1976): Stefano (Lino Capolicchio), an art specialist, is hired by members of a rural Italian village to perform restoration work on a disturbingly violent fresco of Saint Sebastian painted on a decaying church wall. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful teacher, Francesca (Francesca Marciano), while staying for free in a house once owned by the sisters of the long dead artist. Stefano gradually learns that the painter and his sisters were monstrously depraved sadists who bloodily tortured people to death as inspiration for his horrific art. Various murders ensue and Stefano realizes that the killer is attempting to stop him from learning more of the village's secrets.This shocker may be filled with lunatics, violent killings and an undeniably horrific climax, but it is filmed without any of the sleazy exploitation one might expect from the above synopsis. Pupi Avati directs the gruesome proceedings with masterful precision, utilizing a careful, leisurely pace in order to slowly build up a truly palpable sense of malice. While not failing to resort to some tried and true suspense techniques throughout, Avati finds it equally important to linger with moody, loving attention on the exceedingly desolate landscape surroundings and claustrophobic interiors. Cinematographer Pasquale Rachini's beautiful imagery creates a sure sense of place and atmosphere and helps make Stefano's growing feelings of isolation and dread all too real. Lino Capolicchio plays Stefano with seriousness and intelligence, and his excellent performance is greatly responsible for the film's overall success; its impossible not to care about what happens to him in the film's disturbing, ambiguous finale. Francesca Marciano is equally fine as Stefano's love interest; their relationship is presented in a fairly realistic manner, and although inserting a romance into the storyline is more than a tad formulaic, Marciano is so charming and beautiful its certainly easy to see why Stefano falls for her so quickly.
Director Avati may have developed a solid international reputation as a serious auteur with a lengthy filmography full of critically acclaimed "arthouse" character studies like THE STORY OF BOYS AND GIRLS, but in the U.S. his reputation rests mostly on two cult horror films, ZEDER and THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS. ZEDER has long been the most visible of the two, having managed a domestic release on videotape in the 1980's with the more exploitable title of REVENGE OF THE DEAD, as well as a (disappointing) DVD release in 2000 under its proper title. HOUSE, on the other hand, has languished in relative obscurity since its 1976 release in Italy, despite critical raves across the board, including from such estimable sources as Phil Hardy's THE OVERLOOK FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA: HORROR and VIDEO WATCHDOG magazine.Now, finally, HOUSE has received a much deserved DVD release as part of Image Entertainment's Euroshock Collection. Thankfully, the print used is in stunningly pristine shape; the movie literally looks brand-new. The film's beautiful visuals are presented in their original aspect ratio, letterboxed at 1.85:1 (although the DVD's box claims 1.78:1). The Italian language soundtrack has optional English subtitles. Extras include a still/lobby card gallery, a surprisingly boring trailer and, most impressively, a short (subtitled) Italian language retrospective/documentary featuring a fascinating interview with Avati who obviously feels great love for this gem of a horror film. And so will you."
Interesting little film that's weathered the test of time
Scott Jeune | kerhonkson, ny | 04/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I put this on at two in the morning after work one night and sat through it (and the subtitles) with nary a yawn... and was quite creeped out by the end credits. It has everything that makes a great giallo- intriguing camera shots, a plot that ravels itself back together in the last few minutes, picaresque locations populated by physically and emotionally twisted subcharacters (and I thought America had cornered the market on twisted rednecks- Get a load of the altar boy!). An artist on a restoration project begins recieving death threats and investigates further after a friend gets pushed from his window, leading to a reel tape of the artist (not a spoiler- it's in the opening credits) describing his flesh tortured in conjunction with his art (how pomo). Kudos to Image for releasing this film undubbed because you'd miss out on the eerie flavor of the phone calls and that reel tape - probably the creepiest tape used in a film after the opening credits of "Klute". On a technical note, remember to click in the subtitles option before viewing the film, and don't watch the making of until after the movie - it has spoilers. You may need to watch it after anyway, just to have a better transition to shutting off the t.v. in a dark house! So, overall, one of the more plot oriented giallos that still can carry itself into suspension of disbelief, and with very little lost relevancy."
An interesting gothic giallo
Luis | Chile | 12/06/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is an original Italian piece. The story develops in a giallo format, but ends in a more gothic style. By the way, the end is a bit disappointing though. The movie is nicely shot on some Italian coutry location, the wideangle use of the camera is very well achieved. The digital transfer is very good, with vivid colors and a nice defintion. It comes with its original Italian sound and English subtitles. Overall, and considering the its price, an interesting title that mixes a giallo style story with some gothic touches, including the ending. Note, however, that this is not for those expecting lots of nudity and blood."
Great Plot, Characters, Atmosphere
Ex-Pat | Eindhoven, NL | 10/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A very interesting plot and some good casting (alter boy especially). A unique plot and good camera-work make this Giallo one to see for sure."
"The House With Screaming Windows" Would Have Been A More Ap
J. B. Hoyos | Chesapeake, VA | 12/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before I review the actual film, allow me to say that Image did an excellent job of restoring "The House With Laughing Windows" or else they found an excellent print. For having been originally released in 1976, the audio and video are superb. Speaking of audio, it is presented only in Italian with English subtitles. Perhaps it was never dubbed in English, having never been released in America. (However, one would think that it would have been dubbed in English for release in Britain.) The film, as well as the trailer, is presented in widescreen with its original theatrical aspect of 1.85:1. The trailer does not have English subtitles. Other special features include an interesting documentary on the making of the film (which now has a cult following), a lobby card gallery, and filmographies of the director and lead actor.
Directed by Pupi Avati (who co-wrote the screenplay for Lamberto Bava's "Macabre," a.k.a., "Macabro"), "The House with Laughing Windows" is one of the most bizarre Italian gialli I have ever seen. It has satanic elements and ranks up there with Aldo Lado's "Short Night of the Glass Dolls" and Sergio Martino's "All the Colors of the Dark," both of which are equally strange; however, "The House with Laughing Windows" is superior.
Stefano (Lino Capolicchio of Antonio Bido's "The Blood Stained Shadow") is hired to restore a church fresco which depicts the brutal stabbing death of St. Sebastain. He soon learns that the inhabitants of this small island town are a strange lot. The friend who recommended him for the job falls from Stefano's hotel room window. Though Stefano insists it was murder, the police rule it a suicide. Stefano begins investigating the fresco's dead painter Legnani who was known as the Painter of Agony. His perverse artwork depicted people in pain and suffering and it was rumored that he painted from real life. As Stefano unravels the secrets of the painting, more of his friends and associates begin to die.
"The House with Laughing Windows" is a creepy, atmospheric gothic horror/giallo. There are crumbling buildings, swamps, and canals enshrouded in fog; demented characters; disappearing corpses; and a secret burial site. Like many Italian gialli, the ending is strange, twisted, and perverse; it is rather shocking and unexpected. Stefano reminds me of Rosemary Woodhouse in "Rosemary's Baby." He too learns that you can't trust those around you.
"The House with Laughing Windows" is highly recommended for those who enjoy Italian gialli or European horror. I didn't find anything laughable about it. It would have been more appropriately titled "The House With Screaming Windows." Its victims certainly screamed a lot before dying.
If you like Italian gialli, I recommend "Deep Red," "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage," "Tenebre," "The Red Queen Kills Seven Times," "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin," "Murder Walks on High Heels," "Torso," "The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh," "What Have You Done to Solange?" and "Blood and Black Lace." I'm addicted to Italian gialli. I've seen over sixty. "