1982 - 101m.
When it comes to Dario Argento, the three films I keep going back to are Suspiria, Opera, and Tenebrae. These films are all top notch and I tend to revisit each of them every few years. Whenever I do this, I always get excited as the movie plays on and I remember scenes that are coming up and I enjoy them every time even though I have seen them all repeatedly. When Synapse films put out a pricey special edition Blu-ray of Tenebrae this year, I must say that I hesitated a bit as it was even more expensive ordering it as a Canadian but then I remembered "the shot". For those who have not seen this film, I am referring to a crane shot that lasts for a few minutes and starts outside of a house and proceeds to pan over the entire house (including the roof) while slowing down multiple times to explore the action that is going on inside. Throughout this shot, one of my favorite songs by members of Italian prog-rock band Goblin is blaring and when I first saw this, I finally understood what "cinema" is all about. This shot gave my young movie nerd mind an appreciation for cinematography that I didn't have before. From that point forward, I became much more aware of what the camera is doing in all movies and much more appreciative to the art of cinema. Even after rewatching it again this week, this sequence still amazes me. The rest of the film is pretty great as well and it still remains one of my favorite giallo films.
Anthony Franciosa stars as Peter Neal, a novelist who goes to Rome to promote his new book title Tenebrae. Upon arrival, it is revealed that somebody is murdering people and then writing notes to Neal to let him know that his book has inspired their killing spree. The murders continue and Neal begins to play detective and investigate the murders himself with the help of his assistants Jane (Daria Nicolodi) and Gianni (Christian Borromeo - The House on the Edge of the Park). I'm not going to reveal any more because if you haven't seen this flick, you want to go in blind and experience the twists and turns in the plot firsthand. As with any Argento film, there is a lot of time spent building suspense and making the murders into set pieces and this film is no exception as we get much more than a slasher movie. Argento takes his time with each character before their demise by following them around and making their death an event as opposed to the simple hack and slash approach of Jason or The Shape.
The camera plays such an important role in Argento's films and even though it is incredibly stylish, I still feel that Tenebrae is a pretty cool murder mystery at its core. A main criticism of Italian genre movies is that they don't make sense or that there is style over substance but this flick has a great marriage of style and substance and the plot is much easier to follow than many films from the genre (aside from the scenes with the girl on the beach). Franciosa is excellent as the nice yet egotistical Neal who starts to believe in his own ability to solve the murders and gets intimately involved with the case. Giuliano Gemma (Day of Anger) is also great as the detective who is assigned to the case and he has a sarcastic demeanor that doesn't take away from the tone of the film. Nicolodi is likeable as the assistant who obviously cares deeply for Peter but knows what her boundaries are. She also has a hell of a scream that apparently was the result of a lot of pent-up frustration stemming from her tumultuous offscreen relationship with Argento. There are also appearances from John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street), John Steiner and Mirella D'Angelo (Caligula), and Lara Wendel (Ghosthouse).
If you are curious about the giallo subgenre, I can't think of a better place to start than Tenebrae. I think this and Opera were my first and they definitely cemented a lifelong love of the subgenre for me. You get a decent story and above-average cinematography along with all of the other things that make giallos great including inventive death scenes, beautiful women, red herrings, nudity, black gloves (Argento's hands), great music and an amputation that you'll never forget. It's pretty hard to go wrong with this one. (Josh Pasnak, 8/9/16)
Directed By: Dario Argento.
Written By: Dario Argento.
Starring: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma.