THE NEW YORK RIPPER **** Italy 1982 Directed by Lucio Fulci. 93 mins
Fulci’s return to giallo territory after his Gothic / zombie detour is a mean-spirited urban thriller that divided his fanbase and retains some notoriety three decades on (the UK version is still cut) even if its leeringly explicit murders have inevitably reduced in shock value. Someone is murdering attractive, sexually active women in NYC, ringing the cops to brag and impersonate a duck. Many were quick to dismiss the movie as a misogynist tract though much of it simply sees Fulci indulging his fondness for darkly humorous, ironic deaths: the first killing is a cyclist who, before being gutted, gets her own back on a horribly chauvinist driver (“You women should stay at home where you belong!”). Subsequently, a live sex show performer is stabbed in the crotch with a broken bottle before the mystery-killer targets a thrill-seeking, mac-wearing nympho and the married hero’s regular prostitute: the detective is forced to listen via telephone in the film’s most jarring scene of violence as the killer slices her stomach, breast, nipple and eyeball with a razor blade in unflinching close-up.
Despite the emphasis on the mutilation of promiscuous women, the overall tone emerges as more misanthropic than anything else. There are certainly no male characters to root for. Authority figures show no emotion, including the detective protagonist and an insensitive coroner (“He had a blade and stuck it up her joy-trail -it was good, efficient butchery”). Although the long-winded final exposition unveils a sickly child, this is a manhunt thriller stripped down to its bare essentials with no time for sentimentality or light relief. Consequently, it’s not nearly as fun as Fulci’s other fan-favourite 80’s horror movies, but it presents a startlingly nihilistic vision of modern New York, captures a despairing sense of moral decay and the demise of the killer is one of the filmmaker’s most spectacular gore moments.
Review by Steven West
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