The Editor is a movie based on a single stylistic reference, and as such it can’t help but be one-note. Giallo homages have become something of a subgenre unto themselves in recent years; Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani have basically built their entire careers around lush, sexy tributes to the lush, sexy genre, and Berberian Sound Studio shares both a film-studio setting and reality-bending meta approach with The Editor. Tonally, however, The Editor—which hails from Canadian ironic-throwback specialists Astron-6, who also produced Manborg and Father’s Day—couldn’t be more different from its contemporaries.
Rather than attempt to elevate the giallo—a genre that produced as many Z-grade potboilers as Hitchcockian classics, probably more—The Editor revels in its unsavoriness, lovingly sending up the genre’s more lurid tendencies. (There’s a lot of nudity in this movie, but there kind of has to be.) This approach recalls the blaxploitation parody Black Dynamite, and uses many of the same tricks: stiff acting, exaggerated dubbing, and ironic misogyny all come into play. (A running gag about slapping women in the face is an especially fitting send-up of ’70s machismo.) Intentionally “bad” movies are always difficult to critique on a technical level—sure, the plot is borderline incoherent, but that’s just being faithful to the source material—so a movie like this one succeeds or fails on its jokes.
For the most part, The Editor works on this level, with throwaway lines designed to sound like poorly translated dialogue that can’t help but produce a knowing chuckle in fans. (“Sure you have four wooden fingers, but who doesn’t at times?”, reads one rapidly delivered, stilted example.) But when the writers try too hard to be clever, the spell is broken; one can imagine them being very pleased with the sentence “Who’s going to pay for this damn $500 beta machine?”, but in the scene, it falls flat. Similarly, the visual humor works best with a wink and a nudge, occasionally threatening to spoil the carefully constructed mood by veering too far into Zucker brothers territory.
The casting is also a loving homage/in-joke, with Suspiria’s Udo Kier in a supporting role as the head of an insane asylum and Laurence R. Harvey as a priest, an apparent nod to his work in the unholy Human Centipede trilogy. The main roles are filled by co-writers/directors/producers/cinematographers/ wardrobe assistants/general multi-taskers Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy, two of the five members of Astron-6. Brooks stars as Rey Ciso, a film editor who has been reduced to working on low-budget genre trash after losing four of his fingers in an editing accident. After the lead actor and actress on his latest film are found murdered, Ciso becomes the main suspect in the investigation of police detective Peter Porfiry (Kennedy). Under the threat of losing his job as well as the affections of his washed-up actress wife (Paz De La Huerta, whose performance, we hope, is supposed to be bad), Ray begins having visions of the murders. Add genre elements, shake, and pour.
Even the best giallos are “about” visuals as much as they’re “about” anything, another level where The Editor pays slavish tribute to its inspirations. Almost every scene is bathed in bold jewel tones and inhabited by visual tropes like cats, black leather gloves, big shiny knives, a corpse dripping with black blood, an insane asylum (complete with nymphomaniac), and the requisite library sequence where our hero finds a dusty book about black magic that explains everything that’s happened so far. Early on, we see a woman screaming in front of some mannequins, her face bathed in pale green à la Mario Bava’s Blood And Black Lace; horror buffs will also find explicit references to Dario Argento, Videodrome, The Shining, and Lucio Fulci (one character, a blonde actress, goes blind and adopts a German shepherd in a nod to The Beyond). If none of those references mean anything to you, you can probably skip The Editor. If they do, strap in and enjoy the ridiculous, disjointed ride.