Color Me Giallo

Written by Aleksander U. Serigstad

Our debut record lends its name from the first splatter movie ever made; Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (1963). This was the first movie where graphic depictions of blood and gore became the main star. A crazed killer slaughters and sacrifices innocent victims to an Egyptian goddess. Limbs are chopped off, brains hacked out and tongues ripped out – all in blood red color. Remember, this was only three years after Psycho (1960), which was shot in black and white mainly because Hitchcock thought the shower scene would be too graphic in color. So back in 1963 Blood Feast was pretty hardcore. Today the movie probably delivers more in camp value than shock, with its over-the-top acting and low production value. The gore still looks pretty yucky though, as most of it is actually real meat from the local slaughterhouse. But Blood Feast is still a fascinating time capsule worth checking out. Its film historic value, gruesome gore and cheesy acting, makes it irresistibly charming for a low budget horror movie buff like myself. Lewis followed up the movie with Color Me Blood Red (1964), where a desperate artists kills people to use their blood in his paintings. Not unlike Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood (1959), but a lot gorier, and off course in blood red color!

The poster from the movie “Color Me Blood Red”.

“Color Me Blood Red” is also the name of track number 5 on our record, obviously inspired by Lewis gore classic. We have also released a music video for this song, directed by yours truly. My idea was basically to remake Color Me Blood Red, but shoot it as if it was an italian giallo flick. The giallo genre was popular in Italy in the 1960’s and 70’s. The term stems from crime books that were released with yellow covers, “giallo” meaning yellow in Italian. A giallo film is basically a murder mystery, usually featuring a black gloved killer, insane plot-twists that are often impossible to guess and heavy emphasis on style and atmosphere. They can often be very brutal and violent, which makes them more similar to the slasher movies that ruled the 1980’s, than an episode of “Poirot” or “Midsomar Murders”. We already have a giallo reference on the album. Track number 4 is named after Death Walks At Midnight (197) by Luciano Ercoli, which is a lesser known brutal and stylish giallo flick. Style is one of the key elements of a giallo. As for Herschell Gordon Lewis, he isn’t exactly known for his visual style or strong play with suspense and atmosphere. What he delivered best was gore. So what if Color Me Blood Red was made by some of the Italian giallo maestros like Mario Bava or Dario Argento? That was my core idea for the music video, which gave me the chance to play around with a lot of cool imagery from movies I love. So here’s a break down on some of the visual inspirations for “Color Me Blood Red”, which just as well can work as an insight to the visual trademarks of the giallo genre.

The look of the killers is directly inspired by Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1964). Often cited as one of the first true giallo films, as it has many of the core elements of the genre. Bava’s colorful lighting, beautiful women and sets, and most importantly a black gloved killer. The mask is simply a piece of white fabric, tightly formed to the head, but erasing any trace of recognizable facial features, creating an uncanny spooky vibe. The killer also has some resemblances to The Invisible Man (1933), but Bava’s killer was my template for the look. We actually went through many different fabrics before I found the perfect one at Rainbow textil, a fabric store in Grønland, Oslo. I showed them a picture from Blood and Black Lace and they instantly knew what I needed and came back with an elastic fabric that could perfectly stretch to fit the actors head. Actor Daniel Espeland could barely see anything, and sometimes I had to guide him by his hand just to get him into the shot. Probably not the most practical disguise in real life, but as in most giallos; style beats logic. Speaking of Mario Bava, the font I used for the opening title is the same one used for his proto-slasher A Bay of Blood (1970), which made an obvious influence on the Friday the 13th films a decade later. 

Another classic staple of the genre is the shot of the killer’s knife collection. Dario Argento often utilized this in movies like Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and the infamous Deep Red (1975). These shots are often glamorously shot with the weapons neatly placed on red velvet, like it was a TV commercial aimed towards serial killers. A curious fact about the knife collection we used in the video: our drummer, Raymond, bought it from a junkie for 100 NOK at a sleazy rock bar in Oslo, back in the 90’s. Who knows were those knives have been before.

The colorful lighting is a tribute to Mario Bava. Initially I wanted to go even more balls out with the lighting throughout the video, but I had to cut back some on it due to a lack of time and budget. People often think of Dario Argento when it comes to this colorful style, because of movies like Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980). These movies look like a nightmatish candy store, with all the sets bathed in colorful light sources. But these are also the only movies where Argento goes all out with this style, where Mario Bava utilized it in almost every movie he made, and in any genre. So I have to give Bava the main inspirational credit here.

In the lyrics for “Color Me Blood Red” Runar sings: “I will drain all your veins. And let out your pains.” I thought it was tempting to literally show veins being drained of blood. Which is something I can imagine Argento could have done. For instance; at one point in Opera (1987) he shows the inside of the killers pulsating brain, or in Suspiria (1977) we suddenly get an ultra close-up of a knife entering the beating heart of a victim underneath the skin. I think this is a fine example of how the giallo movies at times throw some really unpredictable and original visuals at your face.

And speaking of ultra close-up of wounds. The one Italian who really mastered this element in grueling details was Lucio Fulci. The ultra close-ups of the flesh getting hacked up and the slow zoom on the wound where the blood sprays, is the most Fulci-esque element in the music video. I also shot the drill scene in many ways like something Fulci would have done, with crash zooms and rapid focus pulls. But that scene is mainly a reference to another movie about a struggling artist. Not an Italian movie, but it was made by an Italian-American; Abel Ferrara’s The Driller Killer. The whole back alley setting with a drunk hobo… if The Driller Killer wasn’t public domain, Ferrara could have sued me!

Another classic giallo staple is the J&B bottle. If you see any Italian exploitation flick from the 70’s, you can almost guarantee that there is a J&B bottle in there somewhere. The characters always drink it, or if not, they at least have a bottle or two in their apartment. All these italian references makes all the more sense given that Marco Hasmann, who painted the cover art for “Blood Feast”, is Italian. I also thought it was a funny meta-element to include the cover art as a part of the plot of the music video. The reveal at the end is in fact a little giallo like when I think of it now. Just as the killer in a giallo flick, the identity of the painting isn’t revealed before the end. And hopefully, for those who already know the cover art, the reveal works as a punchline.

Now open up a bottle of J&B, spin the “Blood Feast” record and put on a Mario Bava movie in the background.