Director Yann Gonzalez's new film Knife+Heart has been described as both a "deliriously kinky queer horror thriller" and a "queer giallo thriller," and while there is definitely a thriller aspect to it, the movie is giallo to its absolute core.
Firstly, there is a masked killer who murders people with an unusual implement of death. While Luciano Ercoli's Death Walks at Midnight had previously held the crown for "strangest murder weapon" with its spiked glove, Gonzalez dethrones Ercoli's by having Knife+Heart's killer utilise a big dildo from which springs a deadly spike. Bravo, sir.
Then, there must be a cast of characters, any one of which could be the killer, and all of which harbor some hidden secret. Given that Knife+Heart is about a lesbian film director, Anne Parèze (Vanessa Paradis), who is making gay porn in the 1970s, with a cast and crew that runs the gamut from hustlers to drug addicts to genuine artistes like Archibald Langevin (Nicolas Maury), there's no lack of suspects.
Finally, by the film's end - and this is by no means a spoiler, especially for those who've seen more than one giallo - the viewer is treated to a voiceover explanation of everything they've just seen, telling us why the killer did what they did. It's the story of how they came to be, and how they got away with it, and it's absolutely note-perfect.
This is no parody of gialli, nor is it some sort of pastiche. In Knife+Heart, Gonzalez has crafted a film which stands shoulder to shoulder with classics of the genre, while also bringing a new perspective. When one considers how the director portrays Paradis' Anne and her recent ex-girlfriend and editor, Lois (Kate Moran), with how Dario Argento depicted the lesbian couple Tilde and Marion in Tenebre, the sheer fact that the couple is granted humanity makes Knife+Heart a revelatory giallo.
This is to say nothing of the fact that gay men and trans individuals are also shown as people, not screeching caricatures as in so many gialli of the late '70s and early '80s. Factor in that the title of the film Anne and her crew is making is “Homocidal”, and it's even more impressive that not once does Gonzalez lapse into making fun of what's happening.
The rich score by French electronic act M83 grants the picture further power, bringing another modern take on vintage entertainment. The end result is a film which is fascinating, involving, and a faithful yet clever inversion of a genre which is all too frequently about style over substance.
KNIFE+HEART / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: YANN GONZALEZ / STARRING: VANESSA PARADIS, KATE MORAN, NICOLAS MURRAY, NOE HERNANDEZ / UK RELEASE DATE: JULY 5TH