Color, 2018, 69 mins secs.
Directed by Luciano and Nicolás Onetti
Starring Germán Baudino, Eugenia Rigón, Gustavo Dalessanro, Clara Kovacic, Ivi Brickell
Cauldron (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Home Movies (Blu-ray & DVD) (Italy R0 HD/PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

To Abrakadabraput it mildly, the recent Abrakadabrabatch of films emulating the look and feel of classic Italian gialli from the '70s and early '80s has produced some very uneven films that focus more on visual flair and atmosphere than actual entertainment value or narrative. The most prominent examples of course are Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani with their cinematic mix tapes like Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, and the trend even earned a spoof of sorts with Astron-6's The Editor. Also in the fray is the sibling team of Luciano and Nicolas Onetti, who started off with the flawed but interesting Sonno Profondo in 2013 and followed it with the markedly better Francesca two years later. Completing an artistic trilogy of sorts, Abrakadabra is a further progression of their style, clocking in under 80 minutes as usual and featuring a pounding soundtrack (by Luciano) that evokes prime Stelvio Cipriani in its strongest moments.

Thirty years after his magician father was shot to death onstage during a magic act gone awry, Lorenzo Manzini (Baudino) is a tormented, alcoholic mess pursuing the same career. When arriving at the theater for his latest show, the police are already on the scene due to the discovery of a female corpse among his stage props -- with knives and a playing card driven into her head Abrakadabraand a magical amulet around her neck. Like his father, Lorenzo has engineered his act around the more mystical and hypnotic Abrakadabraaspects of magic, an aspect not lost on the killer at large who keeps bumping off those within his inner circle including a nasty riff on his fake guillotine act.

As with other self-referential films devoted to Euro horror, Abrakadabra boasts an aggressive look with hyper-saturated colors and flashy devices like whip pans and split screens that owe a lot more to film school tricks than anything found in the actual films it's emulating. However, if you coast along for the ride there's plenty of fun to be had in the proceedings as it gets increasingly insane and fragmented on the way to a truly bizarre ending that veers into the full-on supernatural a la The Wizard of Gore. As with the preceding films, this one has some overt references to its Italian horror predecessors (in this case some obvious lines quoted nearly verbatim from Tenebrae and Suspiria), but the approach is a lot closer to the grubbier films of Antonio Bido (whose Watch Me When I Kill inspired a similar bathtub killing here). All told it's an amusing and entertaining party film choice with some nifty touches, particularly the way the plot continues to unfold over the closing credits. The filmmaker's now familiar obsessions are in evidence here including zoom shots, Abrakadabracreepy dolls, and references to The Divine Comedy, though it doesn't matter if you've never seen one of their films before as there's no narrative connection Abrakadabrawhatsoever.

Initially released on home video on Blu-ray and DVD in Italy, Abrakadabra debuted on North American Blu-ray from Cauldron as one of its initial releases along with Sergio Martino's American Rickshaw. As you'd expect for a recent film, the transfer looks excellent with no issues to report apart from the intentionally distressed look applied to the film's contrast levels to make it look more vintage. The DTS-HD MA audio options include Italian 5.1 and 2.0 with English or Spanish subtitles, or English 2.0 with Spanish subtitles. The film is dubbed either way and most of the surround activity goes to the music, so try the three audio options and see which one you prefer. "Backstage Raw" (11m24s) features a batch of lengthy single-take shots of the cast and crew at work, including a few funny character breaks, and a trailer is also included (set to one music track that bears a peculiar similarity to Thom Yorke's score for Suspiria, also from 2018). The limited embossed slipcase edition (1,000 units) also comes with a soundtrack CD and mini-lobby card style insert photos.

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Reviewed on July 5, 2020.