The House of the Laughing Windows (1976)

A young artist (Lino Capolicchio) is summoned to a church in a remote Italian village to restore a crumbling fresco depicting the horrific martyrdom of St. Sebastian. But the man who originally painted the fresco – long believed dead – appears to have been psychologically disturbed, and Capolicchio stumbles on a murderous secret concealed by powerful factions within the village itself…

Long unavailable outside Italy, and highlighted by a glowing review in Phil Hardy’s seminal reference work ‘The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror’ (published as ‘The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Horror’ in America), Pupi Avati’s THE HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS enjoys an exalted reputation amongst fans of Euro-horror. However, the film is a huge disappointment, a horror movie for people who don’t really like horror movies, directed by an acclaimed filmmaker whose early work routinely embraced elements of fantasy and horror (BLOOD RELATIONS, THOMAS AND THE BEWITCHED, ZEDER, etc.) before he abandoned the genre and dedicated himself to the successful pursuit of ‘upmarket’ material (NOI TRE, THE STORY OF BOYS AND GIRLS, BIX, etc.).

Photographed by regular Avati collaborator Pasquale Rachini on bleak but picturesque Italian locations, the film strives to evoke an atmosphere of dread through languid pacing and deliberate camera movements, but poor post-synch Italian dubbing and weak performances by most of the supporting cast makes it difficult for viewers to engage with the narrative’s emotional dynamic (when a number of major players are killed toward the end of the film, the effect is almost negligible). The climactic sequences contain a number of genuine surprises, but the build-up leaves much to be desired, and Avati’s creative ambitions are scuppered by funereal pacing and a lack of interesting characters. There’s no nudity and very little gore, and consequently, no suspense. Too commercial for the Art-house crowd and too pretentious for trash aficionados, THE HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS fails on all counts, and barely warrants a second glance. Those who prefer the likes of DON’T LOOK NOW to THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (for example) may enjoy it, but everyone else will be bored rigid by this unremarkable potboiler.