Pete’s Peek | The House With Laughing Windows – the atmospheric Italian horror re-mastered at last

The House With Laughing Windows – rarely seen, yet one of the most revered Italian horrors – finally gets the release it deserves: re-mastered, and featuring an exclusive interview with director Pupi Avati.

The story
Art restorer Stefano settles in a small Italian village to work on a painting of St Sebastian by an artist called Buono Legnani, who was much celebrated during the 1930s. But when Stefano starts investigating the life of the late artist, he uncovers a dark secret: Legnani enjoyed painting corpses that were freshly killed by his two devoted sisters. But this knowledge soon puts Stefano’s life and sanity in danger.

The lowdown
Set in rural Emilia-Romagna setting (mainly around Ferrara and Bologna); with eccentric, well-drawn characters who are all very uniquely Italian, this is one film that gets under your skin. Rather than shocks or gore, Avati relies on suspense to frighten his audience. In fact, the whole film is about what might happen. Until the wacko ending, that is…

How can windows laugh?
They can’t. They are just badly painted windows on an old barn-like cottage and don’t appear until an hour into the film. They aren’t even central to the story – that honor belongs to decrepit mansion where Stefano lodges. It’s like a character itself with its decaying grandeur (think Sunset Boulevard meets The Leopard) – though its shabby chic appearance will probably make your average interior designer swoon.

The upshot
If you like 1970s Italian horror where the accent is on atmosphere rather than shocks, The House With Laughing Windows deserves a place in your collection.

Released from 19 November, Shameless Screen Entertainment

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