Welcome back to All the Colors of Giallo, your monthly look at the seedy world of beautiful women, vibrant colors, and unseen, black-gloved murderers. Over the last few months, we have doubled-up on Argento’s Phenomena (1985) and Inferno (1977), the second part of the director’s Three Mother’s Trilogy, while also taking a detour to one of my all-time guilty pleasures with 1994’s Giallo-inspired Color of Night.
September is A Haunting on Film Street Month here at Nightmare on Film Street, and nothing in the Giallo sub-genre is more haunting than the spectre of death. That haunting dread is exactly what hangs over this month’s entry: Lucio Fulci’s, The Psychic (1977) (AKA Seven Notes in Black, a more fitting title). Unfortunately, for the director’s other films, the name Lucio Fulci now brings a certain set of expectations to a film, as horror fans young and old will instantly recognize the gore classics: Zombie (1979), City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), and House by the Cemetery (1981).
However, due to these expectations, the directors of many other genre (and non-genre) films occasionally get lost in the shuffle. As hard as it is to imagine now, Fulci directed thirty-two films before 1979’s Zombie, with three of those films; A Lizard in Women’s Skin (1971), Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), and The Psychic; falling into the Giallo sub-genre.
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Full disclosure: 1977’s The Psychic is far removed from the gore classics previously mentioned. For those unfamiliar, The Psychic tells the story of Virginia (Jennifer O’Neill) who, as a child, begins to experience psychic visions on the day her mother commits suicide. After this horrific event, the film fast forwards to an adult Virginia who, while driving, experiences another vision of a woman being concealed inside of a wall (Similar to Poe’s The Black Cat). At the same time, Virginia is also working on the restoration of her husband, Francesco’s, family home. It is here that she eventually discovers the grisly remains of a corpse hidden inside the wall, like her vision.
Watching Virginia piece the mystery together might be one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had watching a Giallo, as Fulci and writers Roberto Gianviti (Don’t Torture a Ducking, 1972) and Dardano Sacchetti (City of the Living Dead, 1980) weave a mystery throughout the film’s runtime that not only leads to a fantastic climax, but also leaves the viewer questioning what happens next. Simply put, The Psychic is a masterpiece in detail that demands a repeat viewing to connect all the pieces.
In reading online, I have found that many Giallo fans question whether this is an actual entry in the sub-genre, and I will say that The Psychic, like Fulci’s previous horror entries, plays by its own set of rules. The film cuts its own path by never embracing the traditional Giallo tropes. That does not mean that it is without familiar ground, as Gialli fans will most certainly recognize borrowed items from other films such as visions of death, a mysterious unsolved murder, and a beautiful heroine who is unsure if she is in danger, going crazy, or both. Sadly though, the traditional, black-gloved killer is missing and may annoy fans looking for that familiar genre staple. With that said, what The Psychic lacks in kills, it makes up for in tension, drama, and a mystery that will have the most seasoned film watchers guessing until the end.
“The Psychic, like Fulci’s previous horror entries, plays by its own set of rules.”
The Psychic is Fulci at his most subtle (at least in horror). It is a smart and beautifully shot mystery that, while it may not please the directors gore fans, it should please anyone looking for a well-acted mystery that is laced with dread. I may be overselling the film, but in my opinion, it not only belongs in the best Giallo conversation, it also belongs in the best Fulci conversation. It is currently available on Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing—now go watch the movie and let’s discuss that ending!