Trauma (1978)

JULY 1, 2020


If I tell someone I watched Trauma, they're going to think I mean the Argento film, but THIS Trauma is directed by León Klimovsky (who gifted us with The Vampires' Night Orgy) and came out fifteen years earlier. So technically Argento's should be the one that needs clarification, but as this one is included on a Vinegar Syndrome collection literally titled "Forgotten Gialli"* I guess it's fair that you'd automatically first think of his 1993 effort upon hearing the shared title. Luckily, beyond a Psycho reference (well, more of a full blown lift in this one) the two don't share anything else of note in common, and we can simply enjoy the coincidence and perhaps even watch them back to back someday, as they're very different beasts.

Also, no babies get beheaded in this one, so it gets the advantage in that department. Here, a writer does that thing that all movie writers do: goes off to an isolated place to write and ends up in a horror film. He takes a room at a very hazily defined inn run by a woman and her invalid husband, but while the woman seems to enjoy his company and even hits on him a few times, she gets annoyed at two couples who show up to provide the body count. Specifically, she seems alarmed that they are not married couples (one of them is a prostitute, in fact), so their inevitable deaths seem to be the result of a Jason Voorhees-esque hatred for pre/extra marital sex, assuming she is indeed the killer, that is. Could it be our writer, who is clearly sexually repressed himself (and perhaps even gay)?

Well (spoilers)... I actually don't know. The ending of the film finds the woman, totally crazed, swinging a razor around, but after she is sent to jail we see the writer - wearing the black gloves! - hiding a razor with a smirk on his face, suggesting he more or less framed her for the deaths using her mental illness as a cover. It would certainly explain the obviously male forearms we see on the otherwise off-screen killer, but there's also a scene where he finds the buried car of one of the now-dead couples, so if he was the one who murdered them in the first place (and then hid their car to use the "they left" cover story) why was he surprised to find it? I mean, I wouldn't trade anything to lose his hilarious little smirk (and the subsequent knowing nod from a neighborhood kid who seems to have been watching all of the film's events from the sidelines), but it's rare to see a whodunit where I can't actually answer the question of who done it.

Don't get me wrong - this in no way took away from my enjoyment of the film, as I had a blast. It's been quite a while since I've seen a new giallo (over a year, in fact! Unless I just didn't bother to review one I saw between) so such lapses were very easy to forgive, as I was just so happy to be seeing something new in this style again. Plus it was a Spanish giallo (Amagiallo?), which I tend to enjoy more for whatever reason - perhaps because they're less convoluted, at least in my experience? I mean this was a straight up Psycho riff (it's so obvious that the "invalid" husband that we never see is dead, I almost expected a reverse twist where it turns out he is actually alive), without police investigations and inheritance/jewel robbery kinda stuff cluttering the narrative, so it's easy to just enjoy the simple pleasures (i.e. sex, weird diversions, and of course, black gloved murder scenes).

The movie also had something I don't think I've ever seen before, and I swear I applauded even though I was at home watching it alone (if I was at the New Bev or something, I would have led a standing ovation). One of the couples is about to start having sex when the killer enters their room, slowly approaching (via POV) as if to kill them both in the throes of passion, Bay of Blood style. However, the killer opts to back off instead and let them have their fun! He/she kills them the next morning! I absolutely love this, even if it makes no sense given that an aversion to sex seems to be the motive regardless of which one was the actual killer.

The commentary doesn't help answer that question, as no one from the movie is on board to discuss it (Klimovsky passed away in 1996). Instead we get Troy Howarth, who literally wrote the book (three of them, in fact) on these movies and is always fun to listen to. He spends a bit too much time on a few ultimately uninmportant details (such as an alternate title for the film that IMDb lists as a different film entirely), but he's got lots of insight on where the sub-genre was at the time (his research suggests there were only five other giallo films that year) and the careers of its participants. However he seems to think there's no question who the killer is, whereas I saw it as a question mark (leaning toward the other person being the true culprit, if anything), and he knows more than me on these things, so maybe I just missed something. Luckily, the film is one I wouldn't mind watching again anyway, so if I did miss a specific clue I will enjoy finding it the next time around! But I'll watch the other two films on the set first, of course.

What say you?

*Specifically, Forgotten Gialli Volume 1! Well then, BRING ON VOLUME 2 AND THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

1 comment:

  1. The giallo Rings of fear in '78 also went by
    "Trauma" in the US. Also, not to be confused with "Trhauma" from 1980.


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