One of my moments of dread is the threat of random violence. The moment in the original Terminator when the machine shows up at people’s homes, knocks on their door and asks if they are Sarah Connor then promptly shoots them when they answer yes is still chilling. Drawing inspiration for me from the classically brutal Martyrs (2008) and the odd cheapy eye transplant film Mansion Of The Doomed (1976) is this lovely gripping Italian horror thriller The Goldsmith (aka L’orafo) (2022)
The film opens on a chase scene in broad daylight over urban dirt fields, three children who turn out to be younger versions of the people in the film are fleeing from an older man. Arianna (Valentina Carbone), Stefano (Matthias Cavallo) and Roberto (Federico Graziani). During the chase, the girl drops a gold cross. The old man catches up to them and reaches down for the cross. The male children charge to stop him. During the fight Arianna stabs the man with a knife in his stomach. She looks impassively at him with a slight smirk as the blood pours out.
Moving to the present Antonio (Giuseppe Pambieri) is a Goldsmith by trade. He lives with his wife, Giovanna (Stefania Casini). We hear this couple talking about a man who is an apprentice to Antonio. Night falls and a vehicle sits near the property. In the car are Arianna (Tania Bambaci), Stefano (Mike Cimini) and the unhinged drug-fueled Roberto (Gianluca Vannucci). Small-time crooks looking for the easy score. They are staking out the house, waiting for the couple to go to bed. The criminals put on large baby masks which are frightening and enter the house. These masks look quite odd especially when you see them move into closeup and full of shadows like a living sideshow of malignant offspring.
Trying to find the laboratory where all the real work is done, they cannot find it. Roberto gets hyper and talks with Giulio (Andrea Porti) who tips him off along with Yuri (Antonio Cortese). Roberta reaches his limit and goes to rough up the couple into telling them the location. Antonio lets them in the lab that wasn’t so secret all the time asking if “They are sure they want to go in”. Once inside Antonio locks the sliding door and fun begins. Video surveillance, sexual revelations, and character assassination all explode as Antonio and his wife orchestrate an oddly taunting dance of death. Even when a well-meaning policeman checks on the old couple as he sees their lights on, he cannot stop them and is tricked into letting them continue.
Turns out it’s all for a horrid little experiment that Antonio and his wife perform involving the eyes of people who go into the room willingly. The film features graphic eye surgery of the most disturbing kind not the same as in Mario Bava’s, Black Sunday (1960) with the raw eggs on Barbara Steele and the camera pulling away to the screams as the iron maiden closes. This full-on work with shrieks and full gore as the procedure takes place much the same as in the exploitation film Mansion Of The Doomed (1976). Martyrs (2008) comes to mind because of the abruptness of the violence and the insanity that is carried out on people who invade your world.
The Goldsmith (2022) works well with the actors all flawless even if sometimes over the top even for some who for some reason don’t like subtitles. The opening moments in the daylight reminded me of the opening moment in La Dolce Vita (1960) when a helicopter flies a statue of Christ to Rome over a beach with bikini-clad women. The sacred and the profane in one shot. In this case, the modern impoverished Italy with its urban decay and hopeless criminals running through the ruins makes a religious item something to covet. No morals in play that stop one from stealing a religious item for money.
The Goldsmith (2022) is a solid thriller with a novel edge that deserves a wider release simply because it works, is crafted, with no waste and is solidly directed and written as a first feature by Vincenzo Ricchiuto. The music is also outstanding in its use harkening back to a modern take on the synth and driving pop music of the Giallo genre. Executed with style and panache unlike many of the heavy-handed invasion films that are out in the genre world.
The Goldsmith is out now from Cinephobia Releasing and exclusively on VOD at Amazon Prime Video (also available on AppleTV, VUDU, GooglePlay this month) and the DVD is available on most online sellers like Amazon, Movies Unlimited and Kino Lorber to name a few.