Painted Monsters: “The Red Church”

For the month of October, as part of the Countdown to Halloween, I’ll be revisiting each of the thirteen stories in Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and suggesting movies that pair well with them, for your viewing pleasure!

Though I wrote “The Red Church” for Giallo Fantastique, at the time that I wrote it I hadn’t actually seen very many Gialli, though I had been doing a lot of reading about them. Shortly after I wrote the first draft of this story, I saw Suspiria for the first time, and it obsessed me in a way that few other films ever have before or since. From there, I tracked down a lot more Giallo films, though my experience with the genre is still much narrower than I would like.

Because I hadn’t seen very many Gialli when I wrote “The Red Church,” it’s inspired less by any particular film than by the sense of menace and strangeness that is their hallmark as much as the justly-famous kill sequences for which they’re most often known. It was the lurid colors, strange scores, and sense of constant and omnipresent menace that impressed me when I began watching Giallo films, and it’s what I think Ross was able to capture to perfection in Giallo Fantastique, which remains one of my favorite anthologies, in spite of the fact that I’m in it.

Now that I’ve seen a few Gialli, I feel like I can recommend some installments in the genre that pair well with “The Red Church.” Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and my favorite of Dario Argento’s “straight” Gialli Deep Red. (Suspiria remains my favorite of Argento’s films, but it’s kind of its own weird thing). Another movie that I’d be remiss not to mention in conjunction with “The Red Church,” though it isn’t really too much like a Giallo film, is the German thriller Anatomy. It’s been a few years since I saw it last, so I’m not going to vouch too strongly for its quality, but the conspiratorial tone of it struck me at the time, and I know it was one of my first introductions to the notion of plastination, which obviously impacted the writing of “The Red Church” quite a bit.

Speaking of Deep Red, for those of you who’re local to the Kansas City area, I’ll actually be hosting a FREE screening of it tonight at the Tapcade, where you’ll also have a chance to win copies of both Painted Monsters and Giallo Fantastique. So whether you’re an old Argento fan, or you’ve never seen a Giallo before in your life, there’s no better place to be tonight at 8pm!

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