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), Tenebre (1982), Phenomena (1985), 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)]
Sometimes considered one of the last great Argento films, Opera is a movie that I’ve long been aware of, and given my love of some of his previous work, a movie I’ve wanted to see for some time, and overall, while I thought a few changes here and there might have worked, I found the film quite solid.
A big part of this would be the gore and quality special effects throughout the film, and there are some really spectacular scenes here. Perhaps the most remarkable would be the slow-motion headshot sequence, in which a bullet exits the gun, shoots through the peep-hole, and, as one can imagine, pierces a poor soul in the head. Also quite solid is a kill with a knife through the jar, and a woman forced to watch lest she lose her eyebrows via needles taped near her eyes (as the poster demonstrates).
For a late 80’s giallo, over ten years since the heyday of the sub-genre, Opera did a pretty good job as far as the gore goes. The mystery isn’t quite great, but you’re left wondering who exactly is committing the crimes, the answer for which isn’t entirely satisfactory, but the showdown between the mysterious killer and Cristina Marsillach is pretty solid. I don’t love the final scene – I can see why some wanted it removed for the US release – but that’s not too much a deterrent.
Cristina Marsillach isn’t the best lead I’ve seen, because her character (and this isn’t just her – this could be applied to multiple characters throughout the movie) made her fair share of somewhat questionable decisions. Ian Charleson was a character I wanted to like more, as he struck me as potentially interesting, but I felt he wasn’t entirely fleshed out.
In fact, I think this is a complaint I have with most of the characters, so not only do many of them make some foolish decisions (Marsillach not going to the police after witnessing the murder, or Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni not getting help for Marsillach as soon as she saw her in the glass, etc.), but they make those bad decisions while feeling like somewhat shallow characters, and though that didn’t make the film terrible, by any means, I definitely noticed it.
Of course, I did enjoy seeing the occasional Argento addition of odd lighting at times (the two women being trapped in the apartment may have been the best example of that), but the film, as far as stylistic endeavors went, seemed quite a bit more tame than Argento’s previous works. I also could have done without the somewhat jarring heavy metal music during the kills, but I can understand why they’re there.
So though the mystery wasn’t great, and honestly, the characters weren’t great (Urbano Barberini being one of the few shining lights, as far as dim shining lights go), the kills were pretty solid, and I can say that I did enjoy the film. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Deep Red or even Suspiria.