Directed by: Roberto De Feo & Paolo Strippoli
Written by: Roberto De Feo, Paolo Strippoli, Lucio Besana, David Bellini, Milo Tissone
Starring: Matilda Lutz, Will Merrick, Yuliia Sobol, Justin Korovkin, Peppino Mazzotta
Crafting horror tales comes with a certain formula that when handled by pedestrian filmmakers can feel incredibly predictable all while losing the excitement of the premise. This leads to riskier stories and methods in order to create something more visceral and real. This ultimately explains exactly where A Classic Horror Story goes with its narrative and not in the way you would expect.
On her way to Calabria to hopefully get an abortion, Elisa (Matilda Lutz) hitches a ride with a driver named Fabrizio (Francesco Russo) who’s offering rides not only to her but to other folks as well. When they swerve to avoid an accident, the group of folks on the bus find themselves in the middle of the woods with nothing but a small shack in their vicinity.
As a folklore horror tale, until it’s not, A Classic Horror Story has all the makings of films seen and done before in other contexts. It plays with the idea of these woodland monsters and the fear these individuals coming from urban areas entering the playpen of an unknown area. This works very well for the setup in this feature. We have a group of strangers, each with a level of annoyance that you would not mind if they died, and then the final girl in Elisa. You can pretty much surmise how this story will go, but this film has different plans, which should be considered refreshing were it not such an uninteresting path to take.
Gathering these individuals shows different paths in life that are all found in this particular van. Elisa remains the quietest of them all, as she has the least she wants to share. Then you have a rowdy couple, a doctor, and then Fabrizio himself, who has this obsession with horror films and the way they get made. Fabrizio has an odd intensity to him with everything where his niceness raises red flags if anything. All of these personalities inform the decisions being made by these characters later on, especially when they seek refuge in this little shack, which contains plenty of scares.
The horror on display comes from the unknown of what these masked folktale individuals do, as the prophecy read out when they find it certainly does not indicate these strangers will find safety before too long. Therefore, when something does arrive looking to wreak some havoc the buildup leads to figuring out how these things operate and if these individuals can properly defend themselves. With these masked individuals roaming around, it creates this mysterious vibe but once they get their hands on Elisa and the other passengers, this film holds nothing back in showing the violence on display. With my wife hating anything dealing with damage to the eyes, let’s just say she had to look away on several occasions. However, all of the mystery remains of what these creatures want and the answer we get does not arrive with much satisfaction.
Obviously giving it away would not be fair for anyone who has not seen the film, but it just elicits a big shrug because even going in the conventional horror model would have served the story much better. We invest so much into the folklore of these creatures only for it to turn into what the narrative does, which certainly came as a surprise but did not bring much excitement. It becomes difficult to blame the filmmakers for swinging for the fences for the direction they take this film because it has plenty to say about our culture and what it takes to entertain people even if they deny their enjoyment. However, it could have been done in a better fashion, which we did not receive here.
Utilizing plenty of red, which you can surmise what it signifies, A Classic Horror Story has loads of promise of being a decent horror film but struggles in trying something quite innovative. The first two acts provide plenty of spooky build-up for those who enjoy horror stories in the woods. Good individual moments throughout that almost get abandoned by the turn in which the film takes. You have to respect the attempt but the final product does not produce the goods as a complete project, which ultimately makes this a mixed bag.