The House of the Laughing Windows ★★★½

A notable rural giallo that riffs on "Don't Look Now," has an excellent finale, and another variation of a popular giallo trope that shall remain unmentioned.

Art is murder. An out-of-town restoration artist is commissioned to a village to fix a fresco made by a revered, but missing, local artist. Stories about him abound and somebody dies, which inspires a curiosity in our leading man that produces a slow-burning mystery.

The setting adds a lot of character and authenticity. The community is a surprising context for the story and paintings of a local artist inspired by death and possibly murder. The small village, like our small towns, has a lingering mysteriousness. There aren't any international performers, everybody speaks Italian. This makes the film a strong Italian feel, whereas the Rome-based gialli starring Europeans and Americans are often more cosmopolitan.

The film is mostly creepy, yet slow to a fault. The mood catches your attention, then loses you in the interim, where intrigue is diminished with a bit of boredom. The romantic relationship that evolves is also uninspired, shows no chemistry between the characters, and the actress playing the love interest, despite her pretty charm, is nothing to write home about. She lacks all the charisma of the most famous gialli actresses, she has almost no attitude. The blandest segments of the score play during these scenes too.

But at a certain point the weirdness sets in and the violence kicks up. The finale is gruesome and bizarre. At times, the look is reminiscent of the work of director Lucio Fulci and cinematographer Sergio Salvati. It's altogether rewarding and disturbing.

Another watch may improve my rating, but for now I have to knock off some points for those periods that bored me. The film is still better than many more famous gialli and despite its flaws it's fairly distinct. The opening credit sequence is jarring, possibly the best in the genre.

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