Terrifying Tuesday: Delirium: Photos of Gioia (1987)

It’s another Terrifying Tuesday, and I’m back again with another spine tingling tale. This one is brought to you from a son who followed in his father’s footsteps, and like his dear old dad's flicks, this film features two  of my favorite things, beautiful women and psychotic killers. Of course, I’m talking here about Lamberto Bava, and his 1987 film which some point to as the last of the great Italian gialli. 
Delirium: Photos of Gioia [Italian: Foto di Gioia] (1987) starring Serena Grandi, Daria Nicolodi, Vanni Corbellini, Karl Zinny, George Eastman, and Capucine. Directed by Lamberto Bava. 

Gioia is a former adult magazine model who now publishes her own adult magazine called Pussycat. Naturally, even though she is retired, men have not retired from lusting after her. Some of these men are harmless enough like Alex (Eastman), a former flame and actor, or Mark (Zinny), the paralyzed young man who lives next door, but one of her admirers also has a taste for blood. Gioia’s models begin getting killed and then photos of their lifeless bodies sent to her, and in each of them the girls are posed in front of one of Gioia’s early photos. With each killing, the threat gets closer, and Gioia knows it’s only a matter of time before she looses her mind…or her life.  

The Bugg Picture

Unlike a lot of fans of Italian horror, I am not a big fan of Bava’s 1985 film Demons. For some reason, while the premise and gore are quite entertaining, the film itself leaves me cold. I suppose there are certain earmarks I look for in Italian cinema, and Demons seemed to be more influenced by the overindulgences of American horror films in the 1980’s. Yet we’re not here to talk about Demons, so why mention it? Well, because while there are many folks who praise Demons, there are very few who enjoy Delirium, but I am here to count myself among those few. 

Like his father before him, Lamberto lets this story play out expertly, and all the things I look for in a giallo are evident. There are beautiful women, in fact, many of them. The DVD box even proclaims Serena Grandi (her birth name of Faggioli not nearly as sexy) as the Dolly Parton of Italy. While I’m not sold that her measurements actually equal the country chanteuse, let’s just say that Ms. Grandi lives up to her stage name. While her acting did leave something to be desired, Serena had enough else to be desired that I found it to be a small problem. The film also features more beauty in the forms of Miss Denmark 1984 Trine Michelsen and aspiring pop star Sabrina Salerno. 

While beautiful girls do not a great giallo make, it sure doesn’t hurt, but what is a giallo without some murders. Well, probably just 90 minutes of beautiful naked international women, and while that sounds great, let’s all pretend that we need a bit of plot shall we? So on to the killings. While only one of the murders results in any decent amount of blood, Bava makes each of them very visually interesting by filming from the POV of the killer. While by 1987 this was no groundbreaking technique, Bava’s killer exists in a surreal world where his victim’s heads turn into one eyed monsters or bugs. This gives the film an amazing surreal quality to the killings which more than makes up for the lack of the red stuff. Also the killer pulls off one of the most entertaining kills I have seen in a while. After trapping a young model in her home, the killer releases a swarm of bees on her who sting the poor girl to death. While I’m not sure this is possible, it does seem plausible, and I am in no way lining up to find out. 

The third thing I really look for in a giallo is how well the red herrings succeed, and in Delirium they work perfectly.  So many of the characters are despicable. Gioia’s brother Tony (Vanni Corbellini) is totally a creep who lingers way too long when he finds his sister in the bath. Rival magazine publisher Flora (Capucine) is a predatory lesbian with a desire for Gioia’s magazine and body. Flaky actor Tony (George Eastman) is a liar who seems only interested in making booty calls. (Eastman also appeared with Grandi in that cannibal cavalcade known as Anthropophagus) Paralyzed next door neighbor and voyeur Mark (Karl Zinny) spends his time watching Gioia though a telescope and making obscene phone calls to her. Needless to say there are plenty of people to suspect, and the film never leans in any direction for too long. Delirium had me guessing right up to the very end. 

Bava and frequent collaborator Gianlorenzo Battaglia give Delirium a very interesting look. Switching from a dream or nightmare like quality without missing a beat, the cinematography really sets to tone for the film. Bava also does quite a bit with colored lighting, a trick no doubt learned from his dad. The soundtrack by Simon Boswell, who also scored film as diverse as Argento’s Phenomena, Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, and the Sci-Fi miniseries Tin Man, is very compelling and moves from traditional soundtrack music to metal with an ease that augments the unsettling qualities of the film. 

Delirium is just the type of film that appeals to me, but for fans of Lamberto’s Demons, you may find yourself bored to tears over this one. For those out there with a taste for giallo, check this one out. While it is no where near the gialli released in the classic era, Bava manages to integrate some of his more progressive, surreal film ideas into the tried and true methods with excellent results. 

The Bugg Rating

No trailer I'm afraid, but here's a selection from the soundtrack.


  1. Strange that the Italian title is "The Photo," while the English one has to go for the plural. Do we Anglophones require a lot more juicy photos to make us see the movie—not just one? And "Delirium" as an extra bonus?

  2. This sounds like one I'm definitly going to have to check out.

  3. Again we meet on the same cinematic path. I currently have this movie from Netflix and planned on it being my next review for Fantomorte. I've yet to watch it, so I wonder if my thoughts will be the same seeing as though I'm one of those fans of Demons. We will see...

  4. I like both Bava father and son, but I've never seen this film before.


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