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The Little Shop of Horrors

Storefront Scream King
I just came from Rome couple of days ago. Despite the loads and loads of most amazing historical, architectonic, religious and mystical sights and sites of the city, I have to confess one of my main goals of the trip was to visit the shop and museum of the grand-old-man of Italian horror cinema, Dario Argento.

I grew up my teenage years among horror movies in strictly movie-censored Finland. Because of the censorship, all the decent horror films released in my country had been cut mindlessly, not paying any attention what happens to the plot if you take random seconds or minutes away from here and there. That's why we had vivid underground culture of sharing uncut horror movies brought or ordered from abroad. The films would spread around being copied, the copies would being copied, ending up to be 15th or so generation copies with barely watchable picture, occasional lack of sound or colours (we are talking VHS here, youngsters)... That was the time I got acquainted with Italian horror cinema, giallo, Lucio Fulci, Bavas, Ruggero Deodato - and maestro Argento.

The Note from HELL
That's why visiting the museum was almost like a pilgrimage to me. After a short metro ride and a bit of urban navigation we find the Profondo Rosso store. Here we are, at the roots of a Legend. Windows full of scary stuff, much more inside. But what do we find at the site? The not-English-speaking employee gesticulates effectively passing us the information that the Museum is closed. Indeed, the hand-written note at the entrance said in Italian something about the 2nd of November. And it isn't even Halloween yet! We Finns tend to be much more hand-controlled than Italians (at least when sober, which I was. Honestly.) but here I went totally Mediterranean. I spread my arms up wide yelling exaggeratedly Nooooo! and slammed my palms against my forehead recoiling them back up towards the heavens. The employee looked genuinely sorry and I gained my control again, gesturing and saying it's ok, no problem, no can do. Hell, at least I'm going to buy me something as a souvenir. I started rummaging among the eyeballs, monster fingers and vampire masks.

Very soon another man walks into the store. The employee speaks something to him, in Italian, of course. The second man suddenly asks us in English: Do you want to see the museum? Oh, those divine words of joy! The man appears to be the shopkeeper and he explains that the museum is not fully functional because Halloween is coming, and it's the peak season of sales for the store, so there are lots of boxes and other stuff around. But we could go in if we could forgive that and the employee would have to come with us, hope we understand. Understand? I would have danced him trepak half-naked had it occured him to ask. (I didn't do my homework properly, because only after returning home I discovered that the shopkeeper is an Italian director Luigi Cozzi. I actually watched one of his films, Contamination not long ago. Shame on me for not acknowledging. Hell, I could even have asked for an autograph.)

So we buy tickets and descent to the underground vaults of Dario Argento's Horror Museum. It consists of five or six red brick vaulted chambers of Argento movie memorabilia, like the real props and dolls used in making of his films, and other collector stuff like real size Darth Vader and Freddy Krueger. There is a voice-over English speaking narrator from the loudspeakers presenting the chambers in order, so you have to suit your moves in the museum according the narration. The whole place is a bit shabby in a most sympathetical way. First of all, it a very small museum (not the smallest, I've visited, but still). Poor old Darth is quite dusty, and the props actually look quite like what they are: old movie props from the Eighties or so. The narration is very campy with its Italian accent and grandiose horroresque intonation. Priceless. But one can easily see that the museum is built with love, and if you're into horror cinema at all, this is a place to visit.
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