Hitchcock's definition of cinema is "a succession of images," Lucio Fulci's bold incoherence honors it as a sensory experience: The blind girl (Cinzia Monreale) presses her fingers to a canvas, a bell shrieks, she runs off with bloody palms. Kicking it off is a Louisiana calvary slathered with sepia and unspeakable violence -- a lynch party seeks a warlock and bricks up a gaunt aesthete behind a wall, though not before crucifying him and dissolving his face with acid. The unholy setting is a rotting hotel built on an infernal gateway, decades later its owner (Catriona MacColl), an English bird by way of New York City, comes to New Orleans to repair it. Evil streams out in a parade of astonishing necro-lyrical frissons, with human flesh crumbling as readily as plaster. Logic decomposes, a long shot of a figure in the distance cuts to a mega close-up of Monreale's blank orbs, caustic liquids are poured onto a woman's face until it becomes a puddle of strawberry foam inching toward her pigtailed daughter. "I'm a doctor. I won't accept irrational explanations," David Warbeck says. Fulci disagrees, because he knows film is made for nightmares, and casts himself with bowtie and dubbed-in Dixie drawl to usher in a doozy -- Anthony Flees takes a tumble from a library ladder and tarantulas crawl out for lunch, feasting on lips, nose, eyelids, tongue. While reviewers complain about dialogue and plot, Fulci does his best work in nauseous moods and textures, having a maid reach into black fluid to find a bluish, bearded ghoul in the drained bathtub, or sullying the sterility of hospital hallways with splattered viscera ("autopsy theatre," announces one sign). It all builds to a despairing tableau, bare but for the "sea of darkness" that allows the filmmaker's visions. With Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Giovanni De Nava, and Maria Pia Marsala.
--- Fernando F. Croce