A baby skeleton is exhumed next to the suspended highway in the opening, modernity held up by concrete pillars with bases in primeval dirt. Lacombe Lucien is readily anticipated with a slingshot in youth's idle hands, though the rustic decay evoked by Lucio Fulci is Clouzot's in Le Corbeau, a southern mountain village exposed as an anthill of brutality and moral chaos. Wax dolls are dipped in sludge and stuck with pins (talismanic close-ups pierced by atonal wails), soon local boys begin to turn up strangled, buried, face down in the stream. The slumming nympho (Barbara Bouchet) and the shaggy reporter (Tomas Milian) provide their own investigation, and the rot comes to the fore. "Sure, that would mean arresting the entire town." Ancient white walls house barbarous hypocrisy while crumbly roads lead to the resident magus (Georges Wilson), who quotes saints only to call them liars. The culprit is a savior in his own mind, Irene Papas swathed in black as the mother of the puppyish padre (Marc Porel) points up the alliance to Petri (A Ciascuno il Suo). The signature Fulci centerpiece is also the devastating culmination of the film's autopsy of corrupted principles and torn flesh: Pipes and chains against the lupine outcast (Florinda Bolkan), who must agonize for the full length of a slushy Eurovision ballad before expiring on the side of the road in a cruel send-up of Il Bidone. Gruesome revelations set to Riz Ortolani lyricism, superstizione, the crucifix in the woods and the decapitated doll, magia nera. "And the world is shocked?" Ferociously distrustful of church piety, small-town virtue and even childhood innocence, Fulci is out for blood—what his characters ultimately unearth is not the solution to a mystery, but the awareness of horror erupting as vividly and messily from bucolic vistas as from decomposing ghouls. With Antonelo Campodifiori, Ugo D'Alessio, Virgilio Gazzolo, and Vito Passeri.
--- Fernando F. Croce