Short Horror Reviews: Andrea Ricca - Creature Features
For this short film review set, we'll be taking a look at monster movies courtesy of Italian indie director Andrea Ricca!
Upon being introduced to Andrea Ricca's work via Twitter, I did a little digging and found myself more and more intrigued. Having already been a fan of short horror films, seeing Ricca's website and the eye-catching posters for his works (which are reminiscent of the silly but fun-to-watch science fiction horror movies you see on SyFy or Comet) had my interest piqued. So, for the beginning of this 3-part review series, let's dive into Ricca's colorful filmography and see what his monster flicks have to offer!
The Giant Scorpion:
Starting off the list, we have the tale of a scorpion that--after becoming enlarged by a meteor strike--sets its sights on a young woman (Ilaria Lamberti) who must fight back to survive. On a technical level, The Giant Scorpion falls below the level of even the shoddiest SyFy feature. Though considering the short film's reported $100 budget, the wonky special effects are easier to swallow, and even help add to the film's odd charm.
At times, The Giant Scorpion seems to be an affectionate spoof of cheesy SyFy flicks about huge deadly animals, which is supported by the film's surprise comedic ending. Despite the subpar graphics, the action of The Giant Scorpion is well-paced and executed by Ilaria Lamberti. Adding to the film's charm is its treatment of our unnamed heroine, who Ricca and Lamberti appear to play as a horror fanatic. In addition to giving the film something of a meta tone for fellow horror lovers, it gives Lamberti the chance to transform her character into an easy-to-root-for fighter. It's not perfect and some may walk away disappointed by the graphics or short runtime, but for what it is, The Giant Scorpion is a fun sci-fi short with a bit of satirical edge for horror fans to enjoy.
Score: 6.5 out of 10 Fangoria magazines.
Andrea Ricca steps out from behind the camera to star in Spider Danger, which is essentially The Giant Scorpion with the titular big scary animal replaced. Through similar interstellar circumstances, a man's pet spider transforms into a giant predator with an appetite. While the satirical edge and relatable protagonist of The Giant Scorpion gave it something to help it rise above its low budget, Spider Danger has none of that going for it. While Ilaria Lamberti made up for her mostly deadpan delivery through her silently developed character and brief moments of emotion, Ricca's nameless hero remains flat and stiff throughout the whole film and lacks any personality to make you root for him to defeat his murderous pet.
(It also says something about the graphics that I, a severe arachnophobe, was about to watch Spider Danger without so much as flinching)
Spider Danger isn't without its stronger points. The action is on par with what was seen in The Giant Scorpion, and it has a surprise ending that was enough to unnerve me quite a bit. But for the most part, Spider Danger doesn't have enough charm to make it work as well as it could've.
Score: 4 out of 10 bug repellent cans.
The Amulet of Fear:
In this review list's first short film to center around a full-on monster, the discovery of an amulet makes a bookish young woman (Ludovica Ferraro) the target of a malevolent creature. Of the trio of actors discussed in this review set so far, Ferraro proves the most emotive. And like the Giant Scorpion protagonist, Ferraro's character is established as a Genre Savvy horror fan, making her relatable to the viewer. The film's amulet-resurrected monster is also effectively creepy, despite the low-budget CGI.
But what really makes The Amulet of Fear a cut above the Andrea Ricca features I've seen thus far is the fact that Ferraro's horror-loving bookworm is (if possible) even more proactive and badass than The Giant Scorpion's heroine. Combining all of this with the short's fast-paced action, well-executed suspense, and strong cliffhanger ending make this a must-watch if you're in the mood for a quick bite of terror.
(Side note: the creative premise opened up by said cliffhanger ending is something that should definitely be explored in follow-up films. Hint hint, Mr. Ricca...)
Score: 9 out of 10 Stephen King books.
In her second appearance on this list, Ilaria Lamberti plays another young heroine whose peaceful night is interrupted by a bloodthirsty monster. In this case, instead of a gigantic scorpion, it's an extraterrestrial beast that crash-landed outside her house. While Lamberti's previous protagonist was a horror junkie, her character in Space Monster is your standard tough-as-nails cop. While comparatively less creative, it doesn't make Lamberti's heroine any less fun to watch do battle against the titular monster.
The amateurish CGI is a lot less easy to forgive in this one, however. When much of your low-budget indie movie's climax takes place on a highway, making the scenery 100% computer-generated isn't the best way to go about it. But putting that aside, Space Monster's conclusion makes for a fun action sequence with a strong finish and Lamberti brings the same serviceable performance here as she did in The Giant Scorpion. If you can stomach the graphics, you're sure to appreciate Space Monster for the quick shot of sci-fi action it provides.
Score: 5.5 out of 10 space crates.
In a short film that could just as easily have been titled Intergalactic Gremlins, The Furfangs features Andrea Ricca as a lovelorn protagonist who finds himself terrorized by the titular sharp-toothed creatures. Like The Giant Scorpion, The Furfangs succeeds at being a small slice of entertainment thanks to its lighthearted tone. Comedic beats are scattered throughout the film, and similar to the creature from The Amulet of Fear, the titular Furfangs are as effectively creepy as they are wacky.
Ricca's protagonist (Ricca being comparatively more emotive than he was in Spider Danger) also gets the same sprinkling of personality as his previous central characters, even if it ends up not being as integral to the plot as past examples. With the comedy elements working in tandem with the fast pace and the surprise ending, The Furfangs makes for a solid goofball remake of Gremlins to watch in your free time.
Score: 6.5 out of 10 canes.
The Furfangs 2:
Unfortunately for The Furfangs' twist ending, its sequel more or less forgets about it in favor of rehashing the original. While the comedy and ridiculous ways in which Ricca defends himself against the rambunctious little beasts are still funny, it comes with a lathe-rinse-repeat feeling. Fortunately, counteracting that is a twist ending which promises more wide-scale action for a potential The Furfangs 3. Hopefully, if such a film comes out, Ricca won't be foolish enough to leave such a great twist hanging.
Score: 5.5 out of 10 desk lamps.
In one of Ricca's earlier films The Guardian, a treasure hunter (Michele Di Mauro) is in pursuit of a hidden relic. But once he finds it, he learns that there's also a creature attached to the ancient artifact prepared to kill him to protect it. At first, The Guardian seemed to be going down a similar road that his future projects would have, but with a bit of intrigue thrown into the mix. As we see Mauro's treasure hunter search for the relic, I found myself questioning his motivation. Are his intentions with the treasure pure, or steeped in self-interest? Is the titular creature a malevolent spirit, or a protective figure keeping the treasure safe from unsavory hands?
This would've made for a compelling conflict--had The Guardian utilized it. Instead, we get the standard Creature Feature beats, only this time around without the same charm as The Amulet of Fear or The Giant Scorpion. The action is mostly boilerplate and comes to an abrupt end, and apart from one brief bit of humor, the film is painfully bland in its execution. All of that in addition to a bland protagonist is enough to sink The Guardian. Thankfully, Ricca's future works make it easy to say he's improved over the years as a filmmaker.
Score: 3 out of 10 locked gates.
To cap off this list are two dinosaur creature features, starting with Jurassic Night. After dinosaurs manage to break free from a genetic company, Andrea Ricca must do battle against prehistoric beasts that have invaded his home. Like The Guardian, Jurassic Night suffers from not being as fast-paced or quirky as previous entries on this list. The action is something of an improvement in comparison to The Guardian, but overall, it feels too pedestrian and personality-devoid for a film seemingly trying to be a short indie alternative to Jurassic Park. Hopefully, any sequel that comes out of this one will work off Jurassic Night's twist ending.
Score: 4 out of 10 dented doors.
Wow! The final film to be covered in this list, and it's the first one where someone audibly screams at the sight of the title monster. In this dinosaur drama, a pool party is interrupted by a crazed man and his flock of vicious dinosaurs. Visually, Dinosaur Attack is a surprising step-up in quality from previous films, namely thanks to the locale. Rather than the standard suburban house setting of previously discussed films, Dinosaur Attack takes place in what appears to be an upscale apartment complex. It's a nice change of scenery, and help draw attention away from the less-than-impressive dinosaur CGI.
Being the shortest of this collection of films at 1:45, Dinosaur Attack has little time to work with. For the most part, the film utilizes that time to tell a quick but fun story about a group of young people banding together to defend themselves against the dinosaurs. The final confrontation with the man responsible for the onslaught is the highlight of the film, and is made memorable through its over-the-top nature. While this impressive climax is left without a proper conclusion, one can only hope a Dinosaur Attack 2 will make good use of its histrionically epic ending.
Score: 7 out of 10 blue-tinted sunglasses.
So something that became fairly clear as I began my first foray into the world of Andrea Ricca: you don't go into his movies expecting high-concept artistry. You go in looking for a quick slice of indie horror to entertain you in your downtime. Granted, there are a few duds on this list that are likely not to get the job done, and seeing characters not react to horrifying creatures in any realistic way might be a hard pill to swallow. But films like The Amulet of Fear and The Furfangs show Ricca's ability to cram a good amount of schlocky fun into a short time frame. So give some of these creature features a chance, and stay tuned for when I cover Andrea Ricca's alien-centric flicks!