By Scott Dorward
The Editor (Canada, 2014)
“We’re all editors of our own realities.”
I made a mistake with this review. In between watching The Editor and starting to write about it, I let myself sleep. Now, I’m not entirely sure I didn’t dream the whole thing. So please bear with me. This is going to get weird.
Set against the turbulent production of an Italian horror film in the 1970s, The Editor follows a psychologically damaged film editor through the chaos caused by a series of brutal murders on the set. Is the editor the killer? Is he what he seems? Why is half of his hand missing? Does any of this really matter?
You know, I’m not going to try to summarise the plot more than that. Doing so invites madness. Describing what is happening on the screen is like trying to juggle eels. Greased ones. With sharp teeth. This is a deranged acid trip of a film, jumping around between startling scenes with a gleeful disregard for narrative.
More importantly, like the films The Editor parodies, the plot isn’t really the point. It is simply a framework on which the filmmakers hang all the weird images and characters they actually want to show us.
This is a film filled with gory murders, bizarre characters, and shocking and funny set-pieces, all sprayed at the screen as if from a high-pressure firehose filled with blood. Every time it seems like there might be a narrative to follow, the nascent plot thread is murdered as gruesomely and deliberately as the film’s many victims.
There is a police investigation conducted by detectives who are at least as deranged as anyone else in the story, but that’s not really important. The editor is descending into madness and his marriage is falling apart, so, um, fine. And there’s a priest who senses something satanic or maybe even Lovecraftian in the whole situation, which would make things weirder in any other film; here, it is just another shrieking voice in a choir of mad cacophony.
If all of this sounds like I’m saying the film doesn’t work, then, um… I just don’t know anymore. Help me.
The Editor is a lot of different things — so many so that I’m struggling to pin down what it actually is. At heart, it’s a love letter to 1970s Italian horror cinema, especially giallo films. The Editor doesn’t stop at being a pastiche, however, and moves into outright parody. But this is an odd kind of parody, often aiming for shocks rather than laughs. That’s not to say that The Editor isn’t funny, just that it feels more like a Lucio Fulci film than, say, Airplane or even Sean of the Dead.
There are a number of very specific nods to Italian directors and films throughout. For example, we are treated to Dario Argento’s trademark close-ups of gloved hands stabbing people as well as the mass tarantula attack from Fulci’s The Beyond. Someone should make a bingo card with all these elements so the hardcore Italian horror fans can play along at home.
The faithfulness of the pastiche is a mixed blessing. As well as the lurid, sleazy feel of ’70s Italian horror, The Editor also captures the near-incoherent plotting of the films that inspired it. This is a genre that engages emotion over reason, tossing non-sequiturs and outright surrealism into the audience’s laps like eviscerated organs. The last act of The Editor leans especially heavily into this in a way that will either delight or completely alienate viewers.
I’m not entirely sure how much I liked The Editor. My main qualm is parodying the excesses of ’70s Italian horror cinema by exaggerating them feels redundant. They were already so deliriously weird that there is little that a film like The Editor can do to be more ridiculous. More importantly, the earnestness of the original films made their strangeness all the more appealing; adding a layer of irony only undercuts this.
I also wonder how The Editor will be received by people who haven’t seen the films it apes. So much of the humour is dependent on recognition either in the general style and tropes of these films or of specific scenes. It is possible that The Editor may be able to stand on its own merits, but I suspect that people who aren’t lifelong horror nerds may find the whole thing impenetrable and offputting.
Regardless of these concerns, I still found The Editor perfectly entertaining in its own knowing, chaotic way. I laughed out loud at several points and muttered “What the fuck?” at even more. Whatever is it, The Editor is never boring.
It might be interesting to watch The Editor as a double bill with Berberian Sound Studio. The latter is also a loving tribute to the weirdness of 1970s Italian horror cinema, although one that unnerves more than it amuses. The contrast between the two might add to the overall effect of both.
A Final Note
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- 1 – Baskin (2015)
- 2 – The Bar (2017)
- 3 – The Editor (2014)
- 4 – The Beach House (2019)
- 5 – The Mummy (1959)
- 6 – The Wind (2020)
- 7 – Tigers are Not Afraid (2018)
- 8 – Voices From Beyond (1991)
- 9 – Dearest Sister (2016)
- 10 – Patrick (1978)
- 11 – The Transfiguration (2016)
- 12 – The House at the End of Time (2013)
- 13 – The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
- 14 – The Hallow (2015)
- 15 – Night of the Demons (1988)
- 16 – Deep Dark (2015)
- 17 – The Witch Who Came From the Sea (1976)
- 18 – Black Sheep (2006)
- 19 – The Battery (2012)
- 20 – Eaten Alive (1976)
- 21 – Satan’s Slaves (2017)
- 22 – Evolution (2015)
- 23 – Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973)
- 24 – The Dead Center (2018)
- 25 – Your Vice is a Locked Room and I Have the Only Key (1972)
- 26 – The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
- 27 – Here Comes the Devil (2012)
- 28 – Gretel & Hansel (2020)
- 29 – Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)
- 30 – The Stepfather (1987)
- 31 – In Fabric (2018)
Be warned that I may alter this list according to availability, what I feel like watching at the time, and sheer capriciousness.
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our older film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!