Lucio Fulci's murder mystery paints an exceptionally unflattering portrait of small-town Sicily as a backwater rife with perversion, ignorance, madness and murderous small-mindedness. Twelve-year-old Bruno Loccacio disappears from quiet little village of Accendura, and newspaperman Andrea
Martelli (Tomas Milian) is dispatched to cover the case. He strikes up an acquaintance with wealthy fellow-outsider Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet), who's in town laying low until a drug scandal in Milan blows over. Patrizia's father was born in Accendura, but moved to Milan as soon as he made his
money. The body of the missing child is soon found, and local outcast Giuseppe (Vito Passeri) is arrested. Another boy boy is murdered while he's in jail, so another local, Martiara (Florinada Bolkan), falls under suspicion; she lives with elderly Francesco (George Wilson) and both practice magic.
As a teenager Martiara, who has seizures, was thought to be possessed by the Devil; she subsequently bore a deformed child who died in infancy. Martiara admits to having killed the boys, but says she did it by sticking pins in voodoo dolls. The police release her, but vigilante townspeople take
their own revenge. Yet another child is killed and Patrizia is suspected, partly because of her habit of driving around aimlessly at night and partly because people just don't like her short skirts and city attitude. Patrizia and Andrea join forces to uncover the real killer. This surprisingly
well-directed and low-key film (particularly by comparison with Fulci's later gore extravaganzas) is distinguished by an overall atmosphere of perversity, nastiness and two truly grotesque scenes of brutal violence (one of which Fulci recycled for THE PSYCHIC). The soon-to-be-dead children are
depicted as casually cruel and budding peeping toms; Bruno's near-seduction by the naked Patrizia is the sort of thing you just don't see in American movies.
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