I've been intrigued by The House With Laughing Windows or The House With the Windows That Laugh OR The House Of the Laughing Windows, since I first saw a screenshot of that derelict building with the lips painted on it. It was such an intriguing picture that both creeped me out and made me oddly gleeful. In any case, I went into the film knowing pretty much nothing about it, and I come out of the film...pretty much knowing nothing about it--other than the fact that it's pretty neat. Only it doesn't make sense. But neat, yes.
From a plot standpoint, the film tries to be pretty linear. An art restorer named Stefano comes to a rural Italian village to restore the work of a famous painter in the town's church. After uncovering the possibility that the artist was a malevolent force who with his sisters, killed people to use as models for his art---Stefano opens up a Pandora's Box of madness. Village people get killed, and Stefano tries desperately to uncover the mystery of the murders before it is too late.
Oh who am I kidding, I didn't get shit. I started off fairly strong in the film, fully understanding everything that was happening. Gee, I thought. This is the most sensible Italian horror film I've ever seen in my life, I thought. Then suddenly after my attention was diverted to a pool of cat sick by the front door....I looked up to find that I had no idea what was going on. Old photographs were being found, skeletons were dug up, a strange bag was in the attic and the scariest man boob known to mankind was shoved in my face. The film had turned into one giant head scratching, and as is the case when I need it the most--there is no help to be found via Wikipedia. It also doesn't help much when characters just suddenly appear in different settings without warning.
In any case, I still found plenty to be moved by. The film is at many times, quietly beautiful in its approach. Colors are used generously, as is the seemingly desolate landscape of the town. Strange things happen that are never explained, and almost every single person we meet, seems to be hiding something. I'm not sure if I would call it a Giallo really, rather it seems to be more of a straight up Italian murder mystery. Nothing is ever fully explained to us which is both bothersome, yet oddly comforting. It seems to fit with the same untrustworthiness that surrounds Stefano. For instance which IS really the house with the laughing windows? Is it the house with the lips or is it Stefano's house, AKA the house of Legnani's sisters?
I don't know about you, but these windows look much more like they are laughing.
Hopefully I'm right, because I was really excited when I realized that. Just say I'm right anyways to make me feel better.
Now one big fault that I'm finding in the film, is that it doesn't live up to what it is very possible of living up to. It's potential wanes with every new page that Stefano turns. I was expecting the film to pull out some pretty awesome stops which would include but is not limited to, MORE art of murders, murder in art that we can recognize, a better explanation of that creepy lady who is always just starring at Stefano,
More excitement about the house with laughing windows, and honestly, just more murder.
I think because the film focuses so much on art, I was expecting the film to tie that whole piece in much better than it actually did. I was expecting some dead people turning up in art or SOMETHING. Please give me something. On a side note, I'm no artist but, I did get an A in Art History 101 which makes me an authority on all matters concerning art, and I can tell you right now that this art sucks.
Doesn't it vaguely resemble that terrible fantasy art? You know, the sexy, evil fairy art that Gothic wannabes get tattoos of, and tape onto their school binders?
Mmhmm I thought so.
Now, the big reveal at the end was a bit creepy. Not the man boob/boob but the image of the two sisters stabbing the altar boy in the attic. That was pretty amazing. But then things just kind of tumbled out of control. We get a quick "haha we are alive and we will kill you PS your girlfriend is dead" (WHOOPS SPOILER) but then Stefano gets stabbed, stumbles around and I just want to scream at the screen "Wait a minute can you go back and ask them some more questions?" I mean come on, give me something I can work with here.
Don't be mislead by my anger, and questions--I'll have you know that I did come away mostly loving this movie. Loving it more than one is suppose to I'm guessing but loving it all the same. There is much good to be found, it just needs to be better clarified is all. Perhaps after a few more viewings I will finally understand what the hell is going on.
I'll tell you something though, this movie has some astounding subtitle work going on.
(Like a woman doesn't know how to set a table...HA!)
Oooh yeah, that's the stuff.