The Puzzle (2008) / The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010)

I was recently contacted by an Italian filmmaker, Davide Melini, asking me to review a pair of short films he had written and directed. In general, I am a fan of Italian cinema. Truthfully, being here in the U.S., we don’t get a whole lot of it anymore beyond Argento, but Italian horror of the 70’s and 80’s is one of my favorite genres of film (I’ve been working on my own giallo script for quite a while now), so the opportunity to review some new Italian film – especially film from someone who has worked with the Maestro himself (as an A.D. on MOTHER OF TEARS) – was exciting!

The Puzzle (2008)

Description (from the DVD insert):
A woman refuses to give money to her son, despite of his continuous pressure. One night she decides to relax and forget her troubles with her favorite pastime: making puzzles. However, this simple table game hides strange features that can turn her peaceful night into a nightmare.

Special Features:
Trailer, Making-of, Languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian

Written and Directed by Davide Melini

Cast:
Cachito Noguera as Mother, Alessandro Fornari as Son

THE PUZZLE is a quick little film (about 4:45) with a quick little twist. In less than 5 minutes you can’t really develop much story, but TP does manage to introduce us to a Mother of a mooching Son, who has decided to cut him off. That’s all the back-story you get, and really in 5 minutes it would tough to do a whole lot more. The Mother goes to relax by putting together a puzzle, and while doing so things get creepy. Then there is the twist at the end, and it’s over.

What TP does manage to do in its extremely limited running time is to effectively create mood. Melini does this through solid camera work, good lighting (at one point even evoking the feeling of SUSPIRIA), and good atmosphere. The film itself is too short; there is not enough time to really get a good sense as to what’s going on, or why what happens, happens.

Creepy lighting goes a long way in The Puzzle

Overall, TP is a nice exercise in mood, but not really enough substance to succeed as a “film.” It’s too short to really build any suspense, or to really build any characters or reasoning behind what happens. It is what it is: a mind-fuck, but really more of a quickie that leaves you wanting for more.

Overall 5.5 / 10

TP on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1236399/

TP is not for sale.

TP site: http://www.thepuzzle2008.blogspot.com/

The Puzzle (2008)

The full film:

The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010)

Description (from the DVD insert):
How many times have you had a bad day? How many times have you thought you would run away from everyone and everything? That is exactly what happens to Mark. In order to forget about a heated discussion with his girlfriend, he decides to get in the car and go far away. But a little mistake will change his reality forever.

Special Features:
Theatrical Trailer, Making Of, Photo Gallery, Cast & Crew, Languages: English, Spanish, Italian

Written and Directed by Davide Melini

Major Cast:
Carlos Bahos as Mark, Natasha Machuca as White Rose, Leocricia Sabán as Mary

When I heard the title THE SWEET HAND OF THE WHITE ROSE, I assumed giallo. I know that was a bit premature, but with that title, an Italian director, and an Italian / Spanish co-production shot in multiple languages, it just really screamed “giallo” to me. I should have known it wasn’t though, there was no “Seven,” “Yellow,” or “Blood-Stained” in the title!

Texting and driving is never a good idea, especially in a ghost story...

Mark fights with his girlfriend, and decides to run away from the situation. While driving down a familiar road, distracted, he has an accident with serious repercussions; namely the death of a young girl. Then it gets spooky. TSHotWR is not a giallo, it’s a ghost story, and I don’t think I’ve seen an Italian ghost story before. TSHotWR builds its atmosphere, and becomes creepier as Mark is chased throughout a cemetery by thoughts and feelings and eventually stumbles upon the White Rose.

Like TP before it, TSHotWR was just too short. This flick clocks in at a much longer 16:45, but the additional running time is not used to its fullest. TSHotWR begins with some very stuffy narration, with way too much exposition for such a short film, and a very long opening sequence that does very little for the movie. After the opening, a little more time is spent until finally the story picks up with the accident. From that point until the near-end, the pace picks up and moves along at a steady clip, but too much of the running time has already been wasted.

We just don't have creepy cemeteries like this in the states.

There is just not enough suspense built up in the film, once it does get to its action. TSHotWR could be a really creepy ghost story, but once it starts to go to that creepy place it abruptly ends. Just when I thought, “this is going to be a cool vengeful ghost story,” they make up and all is ok (kinda). TSHotWR could be a much better film if there was less intro and more build-up of the suspense… as it stands now it’s just too little too late.

The video of TSHotWR was obviously digital, but not in a bad way. Like TP, the composition of the images were well done, and it is a visually appealing film to watch. In addition, there is good music throughout the film, as well as above-average quality sound. There is a lot of promise in TSHotWR, and some of it comes to fruition in the visual / aural aspects of the film.

Ahh! Scary bloody ghosty child!

Overall, TSHotWR was a decent film that could have been great. There is a lot of style, and a lot of talent behind the scenes with this movie. I just felt that it took too long to get to the good part, and when it got there it rushed right through without taking the time to make the movie as creepy as it could have been. TSHotWR has a great moral, and it is a good story, but it doesn’t quite get to where I wanted it to be. However, I can see that there is a lot of talent behind its production, and I would love to see something else in the future from Davide.

Overall 6.5 / 10

TSHotWR on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1599366/

TSHotWR is not for sale.

TSHotWR site: http://www.davidemelini.com/sweethand.html

The Sweet Hand of the White Rose (2010)

The full film:

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