30th May2013

‘Tulpa’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Claudia Gerini, Michele Placido, Nuot Arquint, Michela Cescon, Ennio Tozzi | Written by Federico Zampaglione, Giacomo Gensini | Directed by Federico Zampaglione

Tul-pa (from the Tibetan): meaning a magically produced illusion or creation. The concept of a being or object which is created through sheer discipline alone. It is a materialized thought that has taken physical form.


Italian rock star turned director Federico Zampaglione made a splash in 2009 when his first film Shadow played to a packed audience at London’s Frightfest. Returning some three years later, Zampaglione unleashed Tulpa on an eager and willing horror-hungry audience. I originally reviewed Tulpa after the Frightfest screening last August in London and whilst I loved the film for it’s classic giallo trappings and gloriously OTT murders, many attendees felt differently.

In fact, the reaction was so mixed that director Federico Zampaglione went back to the editing room post-screening, trimming some 20 minutes from the film and removing some of the (unintentionally hilarious) dubbing. With a 2013 release on the cards from Jinga Films I am privileged to be able to bring you a new review of the film, putting Zampaglione’s new cut in context with the original…

Tulpa tells the story of businesswoman Lisa Boeri: she has a good job, she’s well respected and at the top of her career but she keeps a secret. By night she goes to a seedy club named Tulpa, owned by a guru who teaches her his bizarre esoteric philosophy on finding spiritual and psychological freedom by having anonymous sex with complete strangers. However Lisa finds out her sex club partners are all being murdered in horrible ways one-by-one by a black-gloved killer who seems out to destroy her life. But Lisa can’t talk to the police for fear of revealing her secret and ruining her career, so she has to unmask the anonymous assassin herself…

Taking the tropes of traditional giallo and updating them for a modern audience, Tulpa is a great mix of the familiar and the new. The original cut of the film felt very much like a homage to the films of the 70s, most noticeably the films of the king of Italian giallo, Dario Argento – undoubtedly because of the poor dubbing which was so prevalent in the exported prints during that era.

This new cut Zampaglione’s film removes the dubbing, replacing it with an original language track and subtitles, making the film feel much more like a true giallo rather than an homage to the past. Which is no doubt helped in part by the addition of copious amounts of sex (much more than many of the giallo of the Italian cinema heyday) and some excessive violence; plus Zampaglione throws in a supernatural edge in the form of Tibetan mysticism which brings a new aspect to the table – reminding me very much of the genre-bending films of Lucio Fulci.

Packed with some of the countries biggest stars, including Claudia Gerini in the lead role, Tulpa marks the return of the giallo to the forefront of the Italy’s cinematic output. From the gloved maniac’s first kill to the final reveal Tulpa is both a nostalgic look back at a now much-maligned genre and a bold statement on its future – all writ large on the screen by a director who has an obvious love for the genre and the talent to see it through.

A neo-giallo that would make even Dario Argento jealous, Tulpa is released in Italy on June 20th.

***** 5/5


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