Lamberto Bava cut his teeth in cinema working with giallo legend Mario Bava, his father, and alongside Dario Argento and Ruggero Deodato. Italian horror fans have a special place in their hearts for his two Demons films and the underrated A Blade in the Dark contains some of his finer work. The comparisons are unfair, but Bava has never displayed the visual prowess of mentor Argento, his famous father, or even collaborator Michele Soavi. He does, however, deliver an occasionally entertaining film — even if the greatest moments are derivative of the masters.
Delirium is a late giallo, which must have been somewhat strange for fans during its 1987 release. Curvaceous red telephones, harbingers of doom for the red-lipped women answering them, were replaced with clunky cordless phones. The shoulder pads, hair, ridiculous wardrobe, and decor are epically '80s — but 26 years later, it works.
Sales are booming for Pussycat Magazine, but there's a maniac murdering the company's models. The killer taunts editor Gloria (played by Italian softcore icon Serena Grandi) with grotesque photos of the victims posed beside a snapshot of the pornographer. The faces of death inspire a list of colorful suspects.
Karl Zinny of Demons fame plays Gloria's pervy, obsessive, disabled neighbor, Mark. When he isn't grieving over the loss of his girlfriend and feeling bitter about his psychosomatic paralysis, he stays busy stalking the magazine mogul via obscene phone calls and making appearances in her dark dreams. Note: pretty much everyone in this film is horny, topless, and in mourning. Mark bears an uncanny resemblance to Richard Ramirez (who was captured shortly before Delirium was released), plays with guns, and has a penchant for dead animals, which helps cement our opinion of him.
Rival publisher Flora (French model/actress Capucine) is a little too eager for control of Pussycat. She also knows about Gloria's past as a hardcore porn star. A photographer (Stagefright and Scarlet Diva's David Brandon), Gloria's seemingly loyal personal assistant (screenwriter and Italian horror queen Daria Nicolodi, who shows up to lend a serious face in a very unserious movie), and several models (including Italian pop star Sabrina Salerno) also create suspicion. Meanwhile, sleazy George Eastman — who co-starred with Grandi in Anthropophagus — was cast solely for the sex scenes. Where there's a frightened and naked men's magazine editor in a sauna, there's Eastman.
Bava orchestrates several tense moments for the mysterious slasher, killing comely bodies in creative ways. One murder recalls a hysterical moment between Nicolodi and an insect in Phenomena. Argento-esque color filters win big giallo points. Gloria's swanky mansion provides a fitting backdrop for provocative pool photo shoots and several death sequences. Bava borrows from Argento again with a Simon Boswell soundtrack that alternates between cheesy rock and eerie synth.
The biggest surprise of the film is introduced during the stalk and slash scenes. Bava wanted to articulate the killer's twisted view of women, so he outfitted them with surreal masks (apparently inspired by Tom Savini's paintings). Other fun highlights include: a topless mummy photo shoot, cassette tape porn, crotch gore, and infinite visual references to phalluses and ejaculation. Grandi is sometimes compared to another flesh-friendly giallo babe: Edwige Fenech. Like the stylistic elements in the movie, Grandi's cartoonish figure embodies the over-the-top time period. Delirium is a 1980s film through and through.
For a jiggle-fest that contains just enough blood, giallo savvy, and spaghetti charm, Delirium is great fun.