The New York Ripper (1982)

Last weekend, Shells out of the blue wanted to watch a horror movie. That’s one of the reasons why I love her. So we settled in with Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween 2. His first Halloween wasn’t fantastic, but certainly had a great 1970’s look and struck the right tone. Zombie, after four movies, has developed a nice grind house style. I remember reading a bunch of negative reviews of Halloween 2 when it first came out, maybe the horror press has grown tired of Zombie, but I thought Halloween 2 was a fine sequel–a lot of nice cameos, the Zombie look, interesting pacing and a bunch of twists over the original (which disposed of the original’s plot after the first fifteen minutes). No new ground was broken, but I do enjoy how most of Zombie’s so-called good guys are not much better than the bad guys. Basically, I’m a sucker for his look. He knows when to pulp it up and when to pull back.

So, I realized Halloween is on the way and I’m feeling more in a horror mood. October is easily my favorite month of the year. Hopefully, I can load up on a bunch the next two weekends. After combing all the movie channels, there’s not much playing I haven’t seen already (although AMC is making a good run at it this year), so it’s off to the dark reaches of Netflix streaming. (The Roku box does have a few all-horror channels, but they’re pay and the movies are mostly Z-list. More research is needed.)

The best thing I liked The New York Ripper, an Italian slasher film, is all the shots of New York City circa 1982. I was in NYC in 1985 and the film looks like how I remember the city—The Staten Island Ferry, the grimy graffiti-covered subway, the sleazy porn district, the weird peeling apartments. And of course, just the clothes and hairstyles of the people who live there. It’s strange how we remember places we only been to years ago. It’s like Brooklyn still looks like it does in Do the Right Thing. It doesn’t, but memory messes with you.

Plus the high-def transfer of a low grade film made all the griminess pop more. Maybe I should go back and watch After Hours.

The New York Ripper has many of the trappings of Italian horror of the time, the overdubbed English, narrative cull-de-sacs, eye gouging, many suspects, graphic violence and plenty of full frontal nudity.

So, out of the gate a win. Director Fulci made one of my favorite horror movies of all time, The Beyond, so while Ripper didn’t live up to the gore and strangeness of that film, it is a pretty decent Gallo with heavy sexual underpinnings.

The New York Ripper is crazed madmen who slashes pretty young women while quacking like a duck. The killings start out as standard TV fare with a hard boiled detective trying to track down the killer with the help of a college professor. Kind of yawn. But after the first third, Fulci starts to follow other, almost random characters, a creepy hustler and a sexually dangerous rich woman. Suddenly, there’s a live sex show, the worst place to put a broken bottle and toe sex. Lots of anonymous stranger toe sex.
Then the red herrings start piling on and the movie turned into a full-blown mystery by the beginning of the third act, the point where the detective thinks he has the right guy. The killer at this point could literally be any character still alive.
Of course, by the end, all is explained and the killer’s motive ends up being pretty unique. He quacked like a duck while he slashed young ladies FOR A REASON. Neat.

If you’re not a fan of Italian horror, especially Gallo, The New York Ripper won’t make you a fan, but if you’re a fan of late ’70’s/early ’80’s slasher pics, the Ripper should satisfy the itch, bad English dubbing and all.

Kind of Black Christmas meets Serpico.

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