31 Screams in October, Vol. 4, #14: The New York Ripper (1982)

Posted: October 14, 2018 in Movie Review

14. The New York Ripper (1982)

Director: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Jack Hedley, Almanta Keller, Howard Ross, Andrew Painter, Alexandra Delli Colli, Paolo Malco

I always enter a Lucio Fulci-directed horror film with a certain amount of apprehension that I’ll just be wasting my time, this despite the fact that I genuinely enjoyed both “The Beyond” and “Zombie” (the latter especially). Fulci’s gorefests, even the good ones, tend to be low on plot and acting, and high on ridiculousness. I can’t imagine how I could expect anything different, but I keep coming back knowing what’s in store. In 1982’s “The New York Ripper,” the absurdity is dialed down just a tad, and what you get for the most part resembles a pretty normal slasher film. That it struggles to make any sense should come as no surprise to anyone.

The plot, as the title suggests, revolves around the gruesome killings of young women in New York. These women are being singled out for their sexual activity, as is the motive of pretty much every slasher villain. Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) is on the case and all he’s got to go on is that the killer apparently has a voice just like Donald Duck. When I heard this, I assumed that something was getting lost in translation, given that this is the usual Italian production with obvious dubbing. But, no, the killer eventually starts making phone calls to Lt. Williams, and be damned if he’s not disguising his voice with duck noises!

I don’t know how anyone can be expected to take anything about “The New York Ripper” seriously after hearing that voice. But the movie does not seem to care whether the audience is accepting of the killer’s distinctive character trait, not even while it introduces others, such as his being left handed. We’re led to believe for a while that he’s missing two fingers from his right hand, but the man fitting that description turns out not to have the smarts which the killer displays. It’s far more random even than that. The truth is much more befitting of a Fulci film.

Eventually, a potential victim manages to escape with her life. That’s when Fay Majors (Almanta Keller) and her boyfriend Peter Bunch (Andrew Painter) take over as the main focus. She’s having trouble remembering much about her attacker, and is later attacked again inside her home. Peter, meanwhile, has a daughter from a previous marriage who is ill. Immediately you’re thinking this is a dark place to go even for a horror movie, and when this plot point is introduced, it feels horribly out of place. Strangely, this will end up being one of the few parts of the movie that will make perfect sense by the end.

There is misogyny aplenty within “The New York Ripper.” Even beyond the fact that promiscuous young women are being singled out, there is one mean-spirited scene which stuck with me. Jane (one of the Ripper’s eventual victims) has an encounter with two Latin men in a bar, whose only function in this movie seems to be to publicly humiliate and sexually assault this poor woman. You neither see nor hear from these men again. This scene is ugly, it’s profoundly uncomfortable to watch, and I have no idea why it was necessary to include it.

“The New York Ripper” is not the worst movie I’ve seen during this marathon. It’s not even the worst Lucio Fulci film I’ve ever seen. The gore effects are excellent as usual. It is, however, undone by that damned duck voice. It’s bizarre that this was the choice that was made to hide the killer’s identity until the big reveal at the end. It doesn’t work except to provide what I’m sure was unintended laughter. Even when it’s finally explained why the killer chose this voice, I’d stopped caring long before then. When it comes to Lucio Fulci, I’d suggest skipping “The New York Ripper” and sticking with the superior “Zombie.”


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