The Reincarnation of Isobel (1973)


No… no, it’s greatly tempting, but I can’t just leave this as a three word review. But what the hell else to say about it? I don’t know what sort of general critical reputation this film has, but it could be the ultimate example of what people mean when they talk about Italian horror not making sense. If I struggled a bit to decipher The Church the other day, this is another order of nonsense. Indeed, I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that seemed quite so aggressively determined to make no sense without falling back on surrealism as an excuse for just refusing to make sense (this means YOU, Jodorowsky); it just says “I’m going to be as confusing as all hell just because I can, and fuck you”… you know, it’s not just the result of sloppy storytelling or laziness, it’s quite active in its efforts to baffle the poor viewer. There’s a broad narrative whose outline can be discerned with a bit of effort—a cult trying to resurrect a woman burned for witchcraft centuries earlier kills a bunch of people to achieve their aim—although there’s a lot of individual things (some enumerated here by Scott Ashlin; possibly not a definitive list) that don’t make sense, and none of them add up to anything other than 98 minutes of befuddlement. It’s so far from conventional cinema I’m not sure I can even say if I liked it or not—not even on the level that I can say I liked The Church but not The Beyond, for example (because I can often tell in some instinctive way whether or not I liked a film I couldn’t analyse)—never mind whether or not it does what it does well or not, because I’ll be damned if I can work out what it was actually trying to achieve so it’s kind of hard to judge how well it succeeded. Unless, of course, the purpose actually was just to be nonsensical, in which case yeah, good work… Maybe the only thing you can say about a film like this is “it exists, and I saw it”. Beyond that, whereof we cannot speak, etc….

Written for the 3rd Annual Italian Horror Blogathon at Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies

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