Crash Analysis: A WHISPER IN THE DARK (Italy, 1976)

Atmospheric – one of Italy’s best shot horrors

A boy has an imaginary brother

It’s odd to see a movie introduced by the director of photography, in this case, Claudio Cirillo, but for this master of the camera it is more than fitting. A WHISPER IN THE DARK, was his ninteenth feature as cinematographer, and he truly thrusted all of his knowledge for light, shadow, color and camera angle into this ambiguous dramatic horror.

Martino (Alessandro Poggi) is a young boy in a well to do mansion. And even though he seems to have the complete family package: mom, dad and two annoying sisters, he keeps a seat at the table for his imaginary brother, Luca. And when he announces Luca is upset and that consequences will be unleashed upon the family, his parents, nanny and staff soon realize Luca may actually be the real deal.

Marcello Aliprandi helmed the production, based on the script by Maria Terese Rienzi and Niccola Rienzi. With an expert hand, Aliprandi created continuous suspense by never letting the audience catch a breath. Though some may say the film drags and is a bore, it’s clear the Rienzi’s, and even Aliprandi, were drawing upon the Gothic tales of old. To enhance the pace and story, Cirillo delivers one of the best shot films of seventies.

Combined with the lush and subtle set and story, the actors deliver as a troupe of reserved characters facing the uncanny in a world where everything is but a snap of the fingers away – or the ringing of the bell. The children are well cared for, the parents have money, wear the latest fashions and can do as they please, yet, something is awry. Why does Martino need to create a brother? Except for his father, he is the only male, and a little brooding one at that, as if he’ll grow up to become the tormented singer of an emo band after denouncing his family and their wealth. But the story isn’t about him as much as it about his mother, Camilla, as portrayed by the breathtaking Nathalie Delon. She is the force out to discover if her son needs a psychiatrist or if a ghost needs to be exorcised from the premises. Like the audience, she is lost in the throes of trying to determine the truth. Yet, can she save her son, and her family, before she goes mad?

It is easy to make comparisons to Robert Wise’s brilliant THE HAUNTING (1963) where everything may not be as it seems – or that people are making something out of nothing due to some semblance of psychosis. And much like John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982), where everything is an unresolved mystery to the characters as well as the audience, so is A WHISPER IN THE DARK.

The movie does, however, have several faults. The female characters are prone to playing the roles of apprehensive screamers. And the two little sisters are ear-piercing at such a high pitch, I’m surprised they didn’t conjure Mothra from the bowels of the Earth. Sadly, as with most Italian films, the audio track is once again laid over the film and doesn’t ring true on most occasions. Furthermore, Pino Donaggio’s music is over-bearing at times and adds melodrama when there shouldn’t be any such sensation.

Is Luca really present in the home, or are strange things happening due to sheer coincidence? Let the audience members judge and take their discussions to the nearest bar or eatery as they sort out the many contradictions. Regardless, this is not only one of the best Italian horrors, but the title is rock solid perfect.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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