The vaguely titled “A Classic Horror Story” is an Italian horror film recently released on Netflix from the directing duo of Roberto De Feo and Paolo Strippoli. It highlights one of the streaming platform’s most welcomed strengths – its embrace of international cinema which includes a plethora of movies from nearly every genre and from all across the globe. Of course not every movie is five-star classic (not even closer really), but they give subscribers a chance to sample the many flavors of filmmaking from around the world.
When it comes to “A Classic Horror Story”, the title pretty much tips us off that this isn’t a movie striving for originality. It’s not reinventing the wheel or introducing anything new to the horror genre. In fact it proudly shows off its influences which include “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Cabin in the Woods”, and even a touch of “Midsommar”. That’s really nothing new especially for the horror genre where movies borrow from other movies all the time. Here the filmmakers put it out there in the title card so we know exactly what to expect. Or do we?
Its story begins in a roadside diner where a young woman named Elisa (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) is having second thoughts about going through with a scheduled abortion. She’s on her way to her parents house in Calabria and is waiting on her ride-share carpool to pick her up. An old RV finally pulls in driven and owned by the chatty Fabrizio (Francesco Russo), an aspiring filmmaker who is recording the trip for his travel blog. They’re joined by the obligatory jerk Mark (Will Merrick) and his girlfriend Sofia (Yuliia Sobol) who are on their way to a wedding. Also Riccardo (Peppino Mazzotta), a moody doctor with some hefty family drama back home.
The five set off through the winding Italian hills. But everything goes south when the RV slams into the tree knocking them all unconscious. When they finally come to, Mark’s leg is busted up and (more shockingly) instead of being near the road the RV is sitting in the middle of a large open field deep in the woods. And that sets up the next hour-plus that purposely leans into more horror tropes than I can number. There’s a dense eerie forest, the RV won’t start and there’s no cell phone service, there are macabre cult markings, and what’s the deal with this bizarrely shaped cabin?
While none of those things will be new to fans of the genre, De Feo and Strippoli meld them together pretty well. There’s even a little meta commentary that lands better than it should. They also add some impressive visual touches seen mostly in the lighting, some crafty uses of perspective, and some creative camera movements. We end up with a good-looking movie made with a hint of Hooper, a touch of Barker, even a dash of Shyamalan. But it borrows from/pays homage to A LOT of other films – so many that it’s hard to root out this movie’s own identity. The familiarity doesn’t kill our fun, but it does lessen the impact. “A Classic Horror Story” is streaming now on Netflix.