What I'm Watching: The Editor
Yeah, no, I am sick of found footage, and the sheer obviousness of setting up VHS 3, means I'm going to review something completely different. And you do not get any more different than anything out there, than The Editor. But hey, it still involves film, so loose connections yay!
The Editor is a loving homage to the Italian horror/giallo genre, from the Canadian filmmakers and film lovers, Astron-6. I've previously reviewed their grindhouse homage, Father's Day, and they impressed me with their skill, humour, and style, even if they did go a little strange at times with that movie.
Their latest effort, The Editor, follows Rey Ciso, the titular Editor. Some time ago, he was in an editing accident, and lost his fingers while slicing into some film strips to do his job. He has since had his fingers replaced with wooden prosthetics, but they do little good other than give him the mere appearance of a whole hand.
He's still editing however, but things start to get strange when people on the latest film he's working on start dying. Which is bad enough, but their fingers are being hacked off in a manner that matches Rey's own injuries.
The movie is packed with lots of homages to the masters of Italian horror, from Argento to Bava, and Fulci, and others I know I've missed. There's style references with the stark, monochrome lighting of reds and blues and yellows, and homages to story points like death by spider, and some shots that are directly lifted from some of the great Italian horror movies.
I love that everyone just insists on calling Rey "The Editor". That's more his name than Rey Ciso in the movie. Which is both silly in its overuse, but also perfectly reasonable considering the nature of the story.
They nail almost everything from the giallo genre. The lurid trashiness of the sex and nudity at every opportunity, the level of blood, the creative deaths, how those things are often right next to each other on screen, the terrible acting and dubbing, the lack of continuity, the red herrings, the bizarre and labyrinthine plots, I could go on and on. If you didn't know this was a modern movie, and a parody/homage, you might just mistake this for a legitimate homage from the 70s or 80s. It boggles the mind how it can poke fun at the genre, while still somehow being a perfect example of it.
The movie is just straight up *bizarre* and it wallows in that bizarreness, gladly so. That's half expected for a giallo, but this movie goes the extra mile, because they know they're going for the deepest well of strange. They'll point out the bizarreness of characters wearing the same clothes, but then go to a flashback from years ago, and a character is STILL in the exact same sweater. There's this mythology the movie tries to establish of editors being an ancient bridge between the netherworld, stretching back to Roman times. Rey keeps having nightmares of an alternate self of him from a Negative Universe that eventually blurs the lines between reality and film and what?
The Editor clearly exists on its own level of reality. The plot makes somewhere around zero sense, and yet somehow hangs together beautifully. Which is the hallmark of good giallos, really. They are absurd, and yet somehow tell a coherent story in the broadest sense. The details may not track, the plot holes may be plentiful, but if you step back and take a look at the larger picture, the story works.
How can you fault a movie for being exactly what it set out to be? And even as a parody and comedy, poking fun at the giallo genre, it actually manages to succeed at being a giallo itself. It both pokes fun at the Italian horror genre, and wallows in those tropes, to create a movie that is both laughing with and at the genre. This is clearly made by fans, for fans.
As the bodies pile up, in ever increasingly bloody fashions, the mystery deepens, and makes less and less sense as red herrings and mysticism walk into the plot, with everyone being a suspect until they're murdered. The movie's plot and strangeness builds and builds, until the mastermind and their machinations are ultimately revealed, and it somehow all comes out the other end actually making sense.
And it leads to possibly one of the greatest setups and payoffs I've ever seen. I've mentioned Ciso's wooden fingers before, and because of these, he has trouble lighting matches to smoke. It's otherwise just a little character moment, and never dwelt upon, but it comes back in a big way. The end of the film culminates with a confrontation around a campfire, and the killer doused in gasoline. Rey tries to light a match and end them, but fails repeatedly. So he takes his wooden hand, shoves it INTO THE FIRE, and lunges at the killer. It is amazing, it's a great payoff to an otherwise subtle character detail that becomes drastically important to the entire payoff of the story. Being well-shot and epic helps.
This movie is tough to review, because it is deliberately terrible, but still trying to tell, on SOME level, a coherent story. The acting is supposed to be hammy, they're supposed to chew scenery. Things aren't supposed to make sense at times. Or *ever*. Is the movie good because it manages to be baffling, or in spite of it? Or both?
Largely, this movie succeeds on almost all counts. It's a solid story and a great giallo in its own right, while also being a parody of the same, and being successful on that count as well, having fun with the tropes and never once taking itself too seriously.
The directing is great, and it is so well shot, bathed in the beautiful colours of an Argento film, and they nail the look and style of the era, while also just being a good looking film, period. And a good look period film, too!
My two biggest problems with the film are on a storytelling front. The whole Negative Universe plotline really goes nowhere. It adds some lovely imagery, and some mysticism to things as well as expanding on the whole thing of Editors being links to the netherworld, and makes you question just who and what Rey is, but it's ultimately a giant red herring. Which is fine, but rather than just having a character be a suspect, it adds this entire other level of stuff I'm not sure the movie needs. But, I love the *idea* behind it all. If they had done more with it, developed it more, did SOMEthing with it other than being creepy and mysterious, a bigger part of the actual plot, it might've worked better for me. I seriously could do an entire separate story itself about an editor confronting his negative self, but here it's just an addition to an already convoluted and weird plot.
The other thing is the ending after the climax, where the movie kind of turns in on itself and twists reality around, literally. All of a sudden characters are in different roles realising they're in a movie, and we are left questioning just what is real and what isn't. Which is also a hallmark of giallos, but I would have enjoyed a slightly more clear cut (ahem) ending. But at least Rey got to edit himself a better reality.
But even with these problems, I love them, which is strange. I love the idea behind Negative Rey, and I am ALL for movies that bend reality and make you question just what you watched. They just feel like TOO MUCH in an already complex movie that's a parody and homage and all things to all people and a floor wax AND a dessert topping!!
However, they're also tropes of the genre, and if they had been done just a little differently, I'd be totally behind them. But they also could have been worked into entire other movies all their own.
Overall, I love this movie, absolutely loved it. Sure, it's got its problems, but it was almost designed to have those from the start. How much of a problem can they be if they absolutely *meant* it to be that way? The movie works in its own right, and as a parody of the genre. It is so well made, and entertaining. It's probably my favourite Astron-6 movie, and I've enjoyed most of their work that I've seen. It leaves behind the more over the top indulgences of Father's Day, while having extravagances all its own, that ultimately work better. This was some of my favourite 90 minutes spent with a film this year.
The Editor doesn't bother itself with such trifles like 'facts' or even 'logic', and it's probably the better for it. This movie exists all on its own, an a little universe created just for it, and that's just fine.
If you're a fan of the giallo genre, this movie is a must see. In fact, I think having some knowledge of giallos and Italian horror is almost required to see this movie. If you don't have SOME knowledge in the movies of Argento and Fulci and the like, I don't know what this movie would be like to watch. So much of this hinges on knowing the tropes and the references. I'm sure on some level it could still be enjoyable, but I can't even begin to guess what that experience would be like. I definitely recommend this to film fans, though.