Deodato will forever be known as the man behind the brilliant
Cannibal Holocaust, but like most Italian directors,
he's made a wide variety of exploitation movies during his career.
This 1988 effort is not his best work, though it remains an
titled Off Balance (both titles appear on screen,
bizarrely), the film tells the story of pianist Robert Dominici
(Michael York) who is tied to a series of brutal murders. In
true giallo style, the killer is kept hidden during the early
part of the film, as police Inspector Datti (Donald Pleasence)
tries to track him down, and if the film had followed the typical
Italian thriller format, we might have expected York to be trying
to solve the case himself. But the movie takes a strange twist
- it's York himself who is the killer, sent mad by a rapid ageing
disease that rots both his body and his mind.
much to admire in this film, surprisingly. The plot twists and
turns nicely, and Michael York's character toys with the viewer's
sympathy - one minute he's taunting the cops as he kills a woman,
the next he's presented as a tragic character. It's a difficult
trick to pull off, but thanks to an effective performance by
York and a smart screenplay from Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo
Mannino and Giglioia Battaglini, Deodato pulls it off.
gore in the film tends to come early on, where it's ridiculously
excessive; subsequent killings then become less intense, as
the film becomes more interested in plot and character than
sensation. Only Donald Pleasence is a let down - he's at his
scenery-chewing worst here.
aside, Phantom of Death is unexpectedly good,
and well worth seeking out.
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