The pain of loss affects everyone differently. Some of us fall into a deep depression that saps our energy, leaving us unable to concentrate or even leave the house. Some of us throw ourselves into our work, seeking distraction through constant activity and meticulous obsession.
Of course, there are also those among us who begin stalking the surgeons who failed to save our loved ones, and in doing so discover that they actually lead a secret double life as sadistic serial killers. It’s really a very common part of the grieving process.
Don’t believe me? Ask recently widowed Angela (Simona Vannelli). Following the death of her husband and son due to injuries sustained in a car accident, she has become a broken shell of her former self. When she’s not locked up in her home sobbing over old family photos, she’s fantasizing about tracking down the doctor she blames for her family’s death and beating him to a bloody pulp with a hammer.
For his part, Doctor Max (director Lorenzo Lepori) appears to be a loving father and an upstanding member of the community. Appearances can be deceiving, though, as Angela learns when she follows Max on his weekend hunting trip. It seems the not-so-good doctor prefers to hunt “the most dangerous game.” Out in the secluded marshlands, he and his friends kidnap, torture, and kill women purely for sport. When Angela tries to interfere, she quickly becomes their latest target.
If you ask me, there’s always been something special about Italian horror movies. Recently released by Vipco, 2022’s Screams From The Swamp (AKA Grida Dalla Palude) proves that’s as true today as it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Despite working with a much lower budget than their predecessors enjoyed, Lepori (who also directed the berserk post-Covid chunkblower Flesh Contagium) and veteran screenwriter Antonio Tentori (who previously collaborated with Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Joe D’Amato, and Bruno Mattei, among others) manage to craft a grim, atmospheric film that balances copious amounts of violence and sleaze with an emotional and surprisingly layered narrative.
To wit, while Lepori portrays Angela’s experiences rather matter-of-factly, it’s impossible not to wonder how much of what we’re seeing is real and how much is in her head. Is Max really a homicidal maniac or has Angela’s unhinged mind fabricated this scenario to justify her own murderous fantasies? Who is the predator and who is the prey?
Things only get murkier when the occult comes into play and Angela performs a black-magic ritual to exact supernatural revenge on Max and his friends. Lepori’s directorial style shifts to incorporate more colorful lighting, warped angles, and heavy use of fog. Does this depict the encroachment of ancient eldritch forces on the natural world… or Angela’s complete divorce from rational reality?
On that front, Screams From The Swamp isn’t exactly forthcoming with answers. It is, however, perfectly happy to ladle on big, wet scoops of eye-gouging gore. Additionally, Alex Visani’s cinematography makes for some tasty eye candy while the throbbing synth score by TV Crimes creates a palpable air of menace.
Produced with minimal resources and presented with minimal dialogue, Screams From The Swamp is lean and moody, at times bordering on surrealism. It feels like a nightmare captured on video. Exactly the sort of thing that would make Fulci and Argento proud.
SCREAMS FROM THE SWAMP is out now on BLU-RAY (Region FREE) in the USA from VIPCO and BayView Entertainment.