A hicksploitation / folk horror mashup, A Classic Horror Story doesn’t exactly break new ground until the end, but it’s a serviceable enough tribute to both genres even if the title is wildly misleading.
The setup is familiar enough to fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Wrong Turn: the perils of being stranded roadside. In this case, it’s some kind of camper van rideshare. This is a bit of a confusing scenario right off the bat for North American viewers, unless you’re aware that this more impoverished part of Italy, Calabria, is international tourist-free and Mafia-ravaged and not the most accessible locale and absent the bullet trains that dot the rest of Europe.
Driver Fab reluctantly allows Bristol, England passenger Mark to take the wheel, and he swerves the vehicle into a tree to avoid what looks like a dead rabbit in the middle of the remote mountain road.
This is possibly what the title refers to as a Classic Horror Story, even if what happens next resolutely is not.
The group of travellers, which includes a disgraced doc, a young couple and a Calabria native considering an abortion, find themselves completely removed from the nearest road, despite the RV not veering too far off the path.
The film then morphs into tropes and visual cues common to folk horror – those Jägermeister logo-like masks, buzzing flies, straw effigies, bonfires, animal sacrifice, etc., most recently seen – and perhaps better executed in – the 2017 British horror, The Ritual.
The twist at the end (no spoilers), isn’t wholly a believable payoff.
A Classic Horror Story has some nice scares, particularly an eye gouging that pulls back from the brutal approach Lucio Fulci might’ve taken had this been lensed 40 years ago, via Zombie or The Beyond.
What’s particularly off-putting, however, is a virtual chat coda in which one user opines that Italians cannot make good horror movies, which unless it’s a lost-in-translation in-joke, is an unconscionable statement.
*** (out of 5)