Tulpa is a word derived from ancient Tibetan Buddhist origin, referring to a time in which the practitioner creates a sentient being through the power of meditation and thought.
It’s also the name for rock star turned director, Federico Zampaglione’s newest triumph, first movie release since his well received Shadow in 2009. Premiered at Frightfest 2012, it soon became one of the hottest acts of the day as a clear homage to early Giallo-style cinema, mixing Italian eroticism with crime, mysticism and a dash of slasher gore. It’s true that at times the acting is amplified and the subject matter a little smutty, but what Giallo crime thriller isn’t? Although Zampaglione was not quite expecting to generate such laughs at the premiere, the film still contains some excellent backdrops as well as a true to the theme soundtrack and a surprisingly enthralling plot unfolding that will leave you questioning “whodunit?”
There is a fine balance between the elegant, business role of Lisa, played by the sultry Claudia Gerini, and her underground escapades, a private Buddhist club aiming to reach Tulpa through group sex, mirroring the independent and sexually charged characters who would have originally been played by the likes of Edwige Fenech and Ida Galli. This esoteric practice is the gateway to the film’s many blood red-hued erotic scenes as the feature manages to maintain a steady amount of nudity throughout, more so than would have been seen in heavier censored Giallos such as Deep Red and the original The Evil Eye.
The narrative progresses into a murder mystery, beginning with the death of three Tulpa members Lisa had recently encountered. At fear of scandalising her career, she collaborates with affiliate Stefan (Ivan Franek) to hunt down the killer who rampages in what seems like a plot to strip Lisa of everyone she holds close. There’s no denying the barbaric ferocity and yet theatrical comedy of the torture scenes including a barbed wire merry-go-round, live rat torture box and a woman in the throws of a bondage session being presented with her lover’s removed genitals, a bound winner for devotees of b-movie gore. The killer in the movie, although not innovative, with fragrances of the original My Bloody Valentine and I know What You Did Last Summer, still brings back the teenage nostalgia of a good old slasher and at times I found myself shouting at the screen, “run you idiot!”
Though the movie received mixed reviews, some loving the crude spiritualism and two-dimensional characters, others yawning with an attitude of “seen it all before,” what is clear is that Zampaglione has managed to resurrect the aura of a classic Giallo thriller whilst adding his own modern coils, crafting this film as a dream for those who get their kicks from vintage horror. If that doesn’t float your dark and scary boat then I think we should take a break. It’s not me, it’s you.
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