The New York Ripper – Lucio Fulci – 1982

This is to be the first of many articles on Lucio Fulci. I love Fulci, so know that going in. Each film, to me, plays like a little personal letter from Fulci to the world, especially with his later films, but some in early ones. He is always able to communicate deeply, despite genre trappings, in fact, genre suits him better than 99 percent of all filmmakers. He is expressionistic, and despite the fact that he is a meticulous technician, his films have a logic that is best described as dream-logic, and one should feel his movies scene by scene rather than examine them as a continuum. That being said, I’ll try to discuss it anyway.

Fulci is the rare director that that went to horror late in his career rather than early, so he approaches the films with a very steady and sure hand, giving us a run of horror films more stellar than any filmmaker in history. Today, I’m going to talk about The New York Ripper. First of all, this is a film away from his super strong husband and wife writing collaborators Dardano Sachetti and Elisa Briganti. Fulci wrote Ripper and it fires on all pistons, but is missing both a sense of pace and character given by Briganti and Sachetti.

The New York Ripper is a super mutant horror film. It’s both a kind of Halloween American slasher and an Italian giallo, in that we don’t know the killer’s identity until the end of the film. It gives sex and violence in equal measures and was sure to satisfy even the sleaziest audience members.

The closest thing to a protagonist is a character called Lieutenant Williams, a cipher of a detective, trying to make sense of the events just as an audience member does. We see a brutal killing, and then he sees a brutal killing. Eventually he employs professor man who doesn’t do much but give vacant speculation about the psychological nature of the killer. Fulci really isn’t interested in characters in this film, rather he wants an excuse to push the audiences level of acceptability.

He stages a scene during a live sex show, in which a woman gets off to the live sex. He give brutal permutations of knives and razors slashing open women’s’ torsos and breasts. To what end? Is it pure exploitation? The woman is later killed, a cause and effect. Fulci punishes her lack of fidelity. I would suggest that Fulci here offers a deconstruction of the slasher film and instead of a mindless killer, the neurosis offered at the end is actually very believable.

After a series of unrelated killings of sexy New York babes, a woman is stalked in a theater, and then has a dream her boyfriend is the killer. With any other director, a dream would be a red herring, but as in Lizard With A Woman’s Skin, the dreamed killer is in fact the real killer. Fulci puts all the stock in the world in dreams and in his films, following the dream is the truest way to reality. The boyfriend has a daughter with amputated limbs and a terminal disease. He kills beautiful women because his daughter will never have a life beyond a hospital bed. And the terror that faces his daughter he feels compelled to re-vist on those more fortunate.

During one scene the killer threatens detectives’ whore girlfriend. Fulci is saying something both about the incompetence of the police force and the hypocrisy of these men. They are a step behind him and the Lieutenant must out his prostitute girlfriend in order to save her life. As always, Fulci has little to no respect for the authority figures in his films and instead prefers to undermine and marginalize them.

The New York Ripper is really for gore-hounds and misanthropes. There isn’t much to be said about Fulci’s hope for humanity here. He’s working without his best collaborators and his film is a mutilated child missing the limbs of great characters and deliberate pace. He acts out in spite, slashing at each idea, taking a short path, filling each frame with sex and violence, one cannot help but think Fulci is the sad parent, not wanting his child to lay sick and limbless, so he brings the nudity and gore, but ultimately we are left with a film, beautiful and sparse, dying on a table.


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