Formula For A Murder (1985): A Macabre Review.

Formula For A Murder PosterStarring Christina Nagy, David Warbeck, Carroll Blumenberg

Directed by Alberto De Martino

It’s been a while since I reviewed something a little older, and thanks to the nice people at Shameless Films, I’ll be doing just that today.  It’s a return to Italy for a review of Formula For a Murder (aka 7, Hyden Park: La Casa Maledetta).  Although,  it’s not exactly a return to Italy per se, as the movie itself takes place in New York City.  Well, you get what I’m saying.  Let’s begin.

At a young age, Joanna was attacked by a nutcase who posed as a priest in an attempt to rape young girls.  In trying to escape, Joanna fell down a flight of stairs, resulting in her being paralyzed from the waist down.  Fast forwarding years later, we see that Joanna is happy in spite of her paralysis, this being mainly due to her having blocked out the memory of what caused her accident so many years ago.  As well, she is constantly pushing herself in various sports such as archery and fencing, has a very good friend in Ruth, who does her best to be supportive to Joanna, and has even caught the eye of her coach Craig.

In a somewhat surprising move, Craig manages to convince Joanna to marry her in an incredibly short period of time after being a couple.  And in an equally short span of time after they wed, Joanna begins to see a familiar looking priest holding a bloody, and also familiar looking doll in his hand that sings a pretty disturbing song.  Has the sudden flood of emotions from the wedding and consummation between Joanna and her new husband Craig begun to break down her mental wall, causing her to hallucinate the false priest from her past?  Or is there another force at work?

I had considered bringing up what is happening to Joanna, because you learn what the source of her visions are fairly early into the running time, just past the half hour mark to be more precise.  So calling Formula For A Murder a full-fledged giallo is sort of debatable.  However, while the mystery is gone early on, there is still a good level of entertainment value throughout, including a rather surprising turn late into the movie that I admittedly didn’t quite expect.

Formula For A Murder

“Accept Jesus into your life Joanna, OR ELSE!!”

I enjoyed the acting from the three main stars Christina Nagy (Joanna), David Warbeck (Craig), and Carroll Blumenberg (Ruth).  Nagy does a fine job walking the line (so to speak) of vulnerability and capability, proving that even people who are wheelchair bound should not be underestimated.  Warbeck and Blumenberg do a good job as a pair who seem to be devoted to Joanna while resenting each other, while in reality their relationship to each other, as well as their ulterior motives, are quite different.

This being an 80’s Italian production, I naturally had an appreciation for how the movie was shot.  If there’s one near-constant about Italian-filmed movies, especially from the 80s, it’s that they make great efforts to have beautiful camera shots thrown in whenever possible, as well as effective lighting to enhance scenes, particularly indoor settings or dimly lit alleyways as examples.  In terms of violence and bloodshed, it’s fairly take compared to many other Italian horror I’ve seen.  However, Formula For A Murder aims for more of a psychological edge than anything.  That being said, the murders that do occur are still bloody and fun to watch.

There are a few issues however.  Because the mystery aspect disappears as early as it does, the rest of the movie is a little duller than it should be.  Mind you, I said a little.  Basically there were a few scenes where I got a little bored due to there being conversations and what not that I knew were just a lot of bullshit, and I just wanted the movie to move on.  If the reveal was held until later in the movie, I feel that things would be a little more interesting in that regard.

Formula For A Murder

Joanna’s greatest fear was soon to come; namely, how to get the grass stains out of her dress.

Also, there’s the question of Joanna’s paralysis, in which the level of paralysis she is suffering is a little unclear.  I was under the impression that her level of movement below the waist was nil.  Yet there was a scene where she was behind the wheel of a car, and later she somehow managed to stand up on her own with the aid of a nearby tree for support, and a scene where she and Craig were consummating after they got married, which she absolutely felt, no question about it.  Interestingly, there was a dream sequence around midway through the movie where a priest claimed that Joanna was faking her condition and chased her around.  It would have been an interesting twist if she was indeed faking it this whole time, but nope, it was only a dream.

For you special features junkies, the Shameless Films release is a Limited Edition which comes with the following features:

-An audio commentary from Cinematographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia

-English and Italian audio options with English subtitles

-13 1/2 minutes of Shameless Films trailers

-And it’s all wrapped up in a special yellow Shameless Films packaging with reversible cover art.

I recommend you check out Formula For A Murder.  The flaws contained within doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment level in a really significant way, and the last 20 minutes alone makes it all worth the wait.  And I’m sure you’re interested in hearing the creepy song that comes out of the doll carried by the mystery priest, and whether or not said song sticks in your heard after the movie is done.  Until next time, rest in peace.

Macabre Rating: 3.5 out of 5 tombstones.

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