Welcome back to All the Colors of Giallo, your monthly look at the seedy world of beautiful women, vibrant colors, and unseen black-gloved killers. Previously we have dived into Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and Dario Argento’s genre-changing Deep Red. While the Gialli sprang out of the 1960’s it would find the majority of its success during the ‘70s, with the massive success of the slasher genre and eventual fall of Italian cinema making this once-lucrative sub-genre all but obsolete.

Despite the shift in horror and cinema, a few films have still managed to pop-up over the decades with filmmakers like Brian De Palma, William Friedkin, and Paul Verhoeven all drawing inspiration from the sub-genre on a more mainstem level throughout the years. Even as recently as 2019, Gialli fans saw one of the best films in the sub-genre’s history released with Yann Gonzalez’s fantastic Knife + Heart.

 

“…Tulpa succeeds in capturing a classic Giallo feel while transporting the story to a modern setting.”

 

Our focus this month is worth notating for fans of the sub-genre, not only for being a tried and true Giallo from beginning to end, but also for being directed by an Italian director. So, without further delay, let us dive into director Federico Zampagliones Tulpa from 2012. I feel confident in saying that many Nightmare on Film Street readers immediately jump to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks when seeing the word Tulpa (I know I do). While Lynch’s use of Tulpa is spot on with the definition, it is not relevant to the film ahead. For some background info, as “Tulpa ” is described as “A being or object that is created in the imagination by visualization techniques such as in Tibetan mysticism”.

Tulpa, the film, tells the story of Gerini (Lisa Boeri) who spends her days as a high-powered businesswoman and her nights visiting a secret club named Tulpa, a Tibetan inspired sex club. During her visits to Tulpa, she partakes in various sexual activities and the consumption of a mystic drink believed to bring spiritual enlightenment. The sexual enlightening is soon brought to a halt when Gerini discovers that someone is killing her sexual playmates at the club. The killings eventually lead Gerini to break the code (like Fight Club, but with sex) of Tulpa and join up with one of her male sexual partners to stop the killer before they can kill again.

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Tulpa, might not break any boundaries in originality (few Gialli do), but Zampagliones’ understanding of the tropes and what makes the sub-genre work are made apparent from the opening scene alone. This kinky BDSM opening features a man tying a woman down to the bed, only for our fedora-wearing, trench coat covered, black-gloved killer to mutilate the man in a way that I will not spoil here.

Along with featuring the traditional Giallo killer imagery, Tulpa succeeds in capturing a classic Giallo feel while transporting the story to a modern setting. Its successful lead female (here the head of a company), its use of sex, and the way Zampagliones uses beautiful reds during the club scenes only add to the erotic nature of the club, and in doing so perfectly captures the sensationalism missing from many Gialli post 1980.

 

 

While not exactly a selling point for a film released in 2012- the dubbing, dialogue, and acting are spotty at best but for me, this only added to the nostalgic feeling. Just to give you an idea of what you are in for, one character that appears later in the film sparked unintentional laughter at its world premiere. Tulpa made its debut at FrightFest in 2012, and was met with positive reviews from Italian critics, with many calling it a fitting tribute to the genre’s heyday of the 1970’s. The film eventually made its way to the US in 2015 getting a DVD only release.

Tulpa feels like a movie out of time, and I and guarantee that it will not be a film for everyone. However, with its use of promiscuous sex (and the dangers involved in living and keeping that life a secret) as the story’s driving force is what won me over about the film. Tulpa offers enough Gialli fun to satisfy open-minded horror fans looking for something on the kinky side. For everyone else, the inventive kills, questionable acting, and the 87 minutes run time might make for a fun watch party (with your not easily offended friends).

 

Tulpa feels like a movie out of time […with] enough Gialli fun to satisfy open-minded horror fans looking for something on the kinky side.”

 

Tulpa is currently available on Amazon Prime. Have you watched Tulpa? What’s your favorite post-’70s, Giallo? Share your thoughts by heading over to TwitterReddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!