Friday, October 2, 2009
October Horror Fest #2: TENEBRE
Any self-respecting horror fan these days has seen a few Argento films, and at least know a bit of what he's about. His movies are pretty much a wet t-shirt contest: awesome to look at, but not much else going on. That isn't to take away from what he's accomplished, though. The cinematography, camerawork and set design in classics like Suspiria and Deep Red is second to none, not to mention the gory special effects that kept the fans coming back for more.
Tenebre's plot is fairly derivative of the giallo genre: best-selling author goes to Rome, serial killer uses scenes from said best-seller as inspiration, creepy characters and nudity follow. It's not one of Argento's best-known films, but it has its merits.
The familiar black-gloved unseen killer is in full effect here, slashing his/her way through victims in scenes that are, to be frank, set up pretty ridiculously. How else do you explain a girl getting dumped in the middle of the street by a mad boyfriend, only to be chased by a raging Doberman through random backyards until she ends up in the killer's lair!? But as I mentioned before, when in comes to dear old Dario, plot and acting skills always take a back seat to kill sequences.
There are those who have said Argento is a misogynist; apparently, these people don't watch slasher movies too often. True, there are some fairly vicious death sequences contained here, but pretty girls have been getting offed in horrible ways since the Universal cycle of monster movies in the Thirties. The cat-and-mouse played here between the killer and the author (Anthony Franciosa) is a small step up from the generic whodunit; there are several well-placed red herrings, and even serious mystery fans will have trouble guessing the killer's identity before the reveal.
Argento enlisted the skills of Italian ambient soundscape rockers Goblin to score Tenebre, as he had throughout his 1970s/80s prime. The main theme is effective and haunting, and was recently covered by the excellent Finnish death-doom metal masters in HOODED MENACE. (You can listen to it at their Myspace here.)
This isn't Argento's best work, but it's certainly not his worst. Innovative camera angles, gaudy 80s Roman sets and a scene-chewing John Saxon all add to the film's charm. The one big drawback to this DVD version, like the rest of Anchor Bay's Argento releases, is the lack of subtitles for the original audio track. The dubbing is abysmal. Still, check this out if you can. It was the first Argento film I ever saw and it quickly led to the works of Fulci, both Bavas and the other Italian splatter maestros.