I first learned of The House with Laughing Windows via Kimberly Lindbergs's excellent Cinebeats, a site you should all be reading if you're not already. She wrote about the 1976 movie as she argued that Pupi Avati is an underappreciated and overlooked director who's made some of the best horror films that no one's seen; her description of House intrigued me- the photos she posted, even more so. Now that I've seen the movie for myself, well...I can only hope that my post will also cause readers to seek out the work of Avati. It's some sort of grassroots cyber viral marketing campaign chainletter!
Lino Capolicchio stars as Stefano, a young man summoned to a church in a small, rural Italian village in order to restore a fresco. The painting, which graphically depicts the murder of Saint Sebastian, is the work of the late Legnani, infamously known as "The Painter of Agonies". As he uncovers more and more of the piece, Stefano becomes embroiled in the mystery of Legnani's sordid history- and he wonders why the town is so content to keep its secrets. Dead bodies turn up, then disappear; footsteps echo in dark hallways; and of course there's the titular house, where Legnani resided with his two psychotic sisters.
If you like your horror along the lines of Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, then wow...you're in for a treat with The House with Laughing Windows. The film's Italian pedigree may have you thinking "giallo", but House is another flavor entirely, almost supernatural in its feel. There's a pervasive sense of dread from the opening frames until the very end, and while there are flashes of violence, the film is more about unsettling the viewer as you dive deeper into the bizarre world of Legnani and the villagers. Events slowly, gradually, and constantly build towards a creepy climax that's as off-putting as that in Roeg's effort.
The film is, quite simply, a work of art in and of itself. Colors pop off the screen, the compositions are always enthralling, and the camera moves in a way that keeps you feeling off-center, adding to the uncanny experience. Every frame is drool-worthy.
The House with Laughing Windows has been the highlight of my SHOCKTOBER thus far, and I think it'll remain that way for some time. Thanks for the recommendation, Cinebeats...I knew The Internet was good for something (besides Murphy Brown fan fiction, of course)!