11/28/2018 19:08

Film: Tenebre

Year: 1982

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 watched. At the time of updating this review, there are just one feature and two Masters of Horror films. I heard a lot of good things about this giallo, but just hadn’t found the time. As part of my 31 Days of Halloween, I needed one in this sub-genre and a film from this year so this fits both. I’ve also now given this a second watch at the Gateway Film Center in 4K.

Synopsis: 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 someone reading through a book that shares the same title as the movie. It only shows their hands and they’re quite agitated. They linger on an important line about killing. The book is then tossed into the fire.

It then goes to 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 that she is Jane McKerrow (Veronica Lario). She follows him to Rome as well.

Before Peter arrives, we see another young woman, Elsa Manni (Ania Pieroni) get busted for shoplifting a copy of this book. Later, 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), an assistant to our author of Anne (Daria Nicolodi) as well as Gianni (Christian Borromeo) who will be his driver and helper. Peter also sits down with a reporter that he is friendly with, Tilde (Mirella D’Angelo). He also meets with two detectives when he gets to his hotel 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 and Gianni 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.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. This film is quite interesting in that there are 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, which made it popular in the mainstream. 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 is quite realistic to happen even today. There is also an interesting idea of this writer being blamed for the killings or sharing the same beliefs that factors in.

I’m not versed that much in the giallo genre, but I’ve watched a good number since my first viewing. 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 presents things that I try to ignore as it can lead to a red herring. The reveal as to what happened was something I thought was good. It takes advantage of what is happening around them. My first watch, I had a pacing issue. This time it didn’t bother me. That could be that my tastes and understanding has changed. The ending was good as well. It has more of a traditional take, but I did find it interesting.

The last thing for the story that I wanted to explore is that I’ve heard Argento made this film in response to people saying the effects it had on people and questioning his morals. I love them creating this story about a writer, who can’t control what people read or watch his stuff. He also cannot help it is popular and it is consumed. This feels like it might also be something John Carpenter would use for In the Mouth of Madness. It also explains why the police would come to him to help solve the case as well.

Now I want to move to acting. This was something else that I thought was 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. Even more so since it is his book that is being mirrored. How it plays out with him in the end works. Gemma was interesting as the main detective. I like the fact 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 this genre like this and he doesn’t necessarily seek out his help. Nicolodi was solid as she always seems to be. She does well in support. It was also fun to see Saxon. I find it interesting he did a lot of Italian films. The rest of the cast round out this film well, especially to our women who were killed as we do get nudity there.

Lastly will be filmmaking. First, I’ll look at the effects which were quite amazing. This is something that I expect from Argento and it 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 the characters look so real that they made me cringe. Attacks from the killer are creative with weapons used. They aren’t all just done with a straight razor. The cinematography is great, Argento knows exactly how to frame it. We get interesting camera movement as well.

Something else I had to talk about was the soundtrack. I know that it was done by members of Goblin, but they weren’t together at the time. The theme is iconic. I listen to it quite a bit, even before my first watch of this movie. They’re one of my favorite groups when it comes to scoring films. It is also funny that we have catalogue music used in a few different spots that was used in different cuts of Dawn of the Dead as well. Those made me smile when I heard them.

In conclusion, this is great. The more from this sub-genre I see, the more I can appreciate what Argento did for it. It is one of the better films from it I have seen. The story was interesting in its look at what is considered deviant sexual behavior and meta-fiction. The twists and turns were well done. Even knowing parts of the reveal, I still couldn’t remember who was behind this. The acting helps to bring this to life and is good, as are the special effects and the score. I don’t have a lot negative to say. This is a great 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 good murder mystery horror film.


My Rating: 9.5 out of 10