tenebre | dario argento | anthony franciosa | giuliano gemma | christian borromeo | giallo | mystery | thriller | italy | mirella d'angelo | veronica lario | daria nicolodi | eva robins | carola stagnaro | john saxon | john steiner | lara wendel | isabella amadeo
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento
Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Giuliano Gemma and Christian Borromeo
This was one of the last Dario Argento films that I hadn’t seen yet. I had heard a lot of good things about this giallo film, but just hadn’t found the time. As part of my 31 Days of Halloween, I needed a giallo and a film from this year so this fit both. The official synopsis for this film is an American writer in Rome is stalked by a serial killer bent on harassing him while killing all people associated with his work on his latest book.
We start off with the writer from the synopsis Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa). He is on his way to the airport as he is going to be promoting his new novel, Tenebre, in Rome. There’s an odd woman who takes his bag. We learn later on that she is Jane McKerrow (Veronica Lario). She follows him to Rome as well.
Before Peter arrives, we see a young woman, Elsa Manni (Ania Pieroni) get busted for shoplifting a copy of Tenebre. Later on she is also murdered by a black gloved killer. She is stabbed and her throat slit with a straight razor. Pages of this novel are shoved into her mouth as well. This kill is straight from the novel.
Upon arriving in Rome, Peter meets with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), and a young reporter that is friends with Peter, Tilde (Mirella D’Angelo). He also meets with two detectives when he gets to his motel room. They are Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Altieri (Carola Stagnaro). Peter agrees with help them in any way that he can.
More murders happen that mirror his novel. Peter along with Anne (Daria Nicolodi) and Gianni (Christian Borromeo) try to see if they can solve this case before it is too late. There is also a flashback to the killer when they were younger and a humiliating event at the hands of Eva Robins and three other boys.
This film is quite interesting in that there are some concepts that are used today. There is a duality and meta-nature as the killer is bringing to life what happened in the novel of the same name. A lot of this can be seen in Scream and I have reason to believe that Wes Craven probably borrowed some of the concept for his classic film. It is interesting, because the murders in the novel are of those that have a deviant nature. The first kill is of a shoplifter while the next two are a lesbian couple. This is something that definitely is quite realistic to happen even today.
I’m not versed that much in the giallo genre, but I am definitely watching more and more. One of things that I grade films on that I see is if I can guess who the killer is. This film had me guessing until the end. It definitely presents things that I try to ignore as it can lead to a red herring. The reveal as to what happens in this film I thought was really good. It definitely is taking advantage of what is happening around them. Now with that said, I did have some pacing issues still. There is a lull at the end of the first act, start of the second act that I did lose interest for a bit. It did bring me right back in and I was hooked from that part on. I thought the ending was really good as well. It has more of a traditional horror ending, but I did find it interesting.
Acting for this film was really good. Franciosa is interesting as the writer. He seems like the typical hero of a giallo. He is not a police officer, but as a murder mystery writer, he gets drawn into the investigation. How things play out with him in the end I really liked. Gemma was interesting as the main detective. I like that he doesn’t rule out that Peter could be a suspect, but there is so much evidence against it being him. He doesn’t strong arm him like cops tend to do in films like this and he doesn’t necessarily seek out his help. Nicolodi was solid in this film as she always seems to be. She does very well in support. It was also fun to see Saxon. I find it interesting he did a lot of Italian cinema. The rest of the cast round out this film well.
The special effects for this film were quite amazing. This is something that I come to expect from Argento films and this one doesn’t disappoint. The blood’s color is a little bit off, but not as bad as it was in films of the decade prior. The wounds on characters look so real that they made me cringe. Attacks from the killer in this film are also pretty creative in some of the weapons used; they all aren’t just done with a straight razor. The film is also shot beautiful and again, Argento knows exactly how to frame it.
Something I definitely had to talk about for this film was the score. I know that it was done by members of Goblin, but they weren’t together at the time. The score of this film isn’t their best in Argento films. The theme though is quite iconic and I had listened to it quite a bit, even though I hadn’t seen the film. There was one track that didn’t fit the film, but the rest of it I thought was spot on. They are one of my favorite groups when it comes to scoring films.
Now with that said, this film is really good. I have seen a lot from this sub-genre, but I do feel this is one of the better films from it I have seen. I thought the story is quite interesting in its look at what is considered deviant sexual behavior and meta-fiction. The twists and turns were well done and despite a lull fairly early on, I was hooked. The acting helps to bring this story to life and is really good, as are the special effects and the score. I don’t really have a lot negative to say about it and this is definitely a good film. I will warn you that it is from Italy and the dubbing is slightly off. If that’s not an issue, this is a really good murder mystery horror film.
My Rating: 9 out of 10