Directed by Dario Argento [Other horror films: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970), Il gatto a nove code (1971), 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971), Profondo rosso (1975), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), Phenomena (1985), Opera (1987), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Black Cat’), Trauma (1993), La sindrome di Stendhal (1996), Il fantasma dell’opera (1998), Non ho sonno (2001), Il cartaio (2003), Ti piace Hitchcock? (2005), La terza madre (2007), Giallo (2009), Dracula 3D (2012), Occhiali neri (2022)]
Dario Argento is a director that I’ve long appreciated, and while Tenebre isn’t the most famous work of his I’ve not seen up to this point (Phenomena is still a film I’ve not taken the time to witness yet), it is one of his bigger ones. Finally seeing it, I enjoyed quite a bit about it, but I also don’t think it’s quite up there with the big boys.
And by “big boys,” I primarily mean Deep Red, which is not only my favorite Argento movie, but among one of the 24 or so horror films I rate a 10/10. Tenebre isn’t that good – I feel the ending, while pretty solid, could have done with a bit more explanation, and I’d have liked to see a bit more information given on some of the characters – but it’s still a perfectly solid film.
I’ll say this much – I never guessed the killer. That took me completely by surprise. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but the fact that I can watch gialli and still be taken for a ride just shows how much I love this subgenre of horror, and Tenebre is a good giallo.
Anthony Franciosa (Curse of the Black Widow, Death House, and Julie Darling) isn’t a name I recognize, but he played a pretty strong lead, bolstered by quality performances from Giuliano Gemma and Daria Nicolodi (Phenomena, Le foto di Gioia, Schock, Paganini Horror). I was expecting a bit more from Christian Borromeo’s (La casa sperduta nel parco and Estigma) character, and Veronica Lario’s character didn’t quite connect to me, but whateves. Other good performances include John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Black Christmas, etc.), Carola Stagnaro (Minaccia d’amore), Mirella D’Angelo (Maya), and Lara Wendel (Killing Birds: Raptors, I frati rossi, La casa 3).
Of course, the kills here were pretty good. Someone’s arm got chopped off, which caused quite the blood spray, which I found amusing at the time. Murders by straight razor and ax were the flavors of the day, and even attacks by terrifying dogs. Perhaps one of my favorites deaths, though, is one done in a public square – a quick stab to the gut. Reminded me of a kill in The Case of the Bloody Iris, and if something reminded me of that one, then that’s a point to the film’s favor.
Even so, as good as the kills were, as fun as the mystery was, and as bitching as the soundtrack was (apparently recorded by three of the four members of the then-disbanded Goblin), I still felt like something more could have been tacked on. I especially was hoping for more from Lario’s character. Part of the reason I love Deep Red is that if you pay attention during the beginning, you get an important clue. Here, I don’t know if there’s anything comparable. I’m not saying the finale comes out of nowhere, but I can’t imagine too many accurately guessed the answer to this one, so in that way, it’s a bit of a let-down.
Tenebre is still a great movie. I don’t think it’s Argento’s best, but I did enjoy a lot about it, and during future viewings, I’m wondering if more will click into place. As for now, it’s definitely above average, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as many others may think.