Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
What's it about
A popular mystery novelist promoting his newest book in Rome finds himself working alongside local police to solve a series of grisly murders that seem to be inspired by his latest work. Victims are being found with book pages stuffed into their mouths, with notes alluding to the novel at the murder scenes. Is it a sick fan, or is something even weirder going on?
Is it good movie?
Wikipedia says:"Giallo" films are characterized by extended murder sequences featuring excessive bloodletting, stylish camera work and unusual musical arrangements.Ē If youíve never seen a Dario Argento film, then youíve never seen one of the great examples of a giallo. TENEBRE marks another intriguing effort from the Italian filmmaker that sometimes threatens to get too predictable, but is often enlivened by Argentoís energy and style.
TENEBRE is more straightforward, and less surreal, than some of Argento's other work like DEEP RED and SUSPIRIA. Still, most of the hallmarks of the director are present. Argentoís camera is eager to roam and capture everything it can, down to the smallest detail. His work with director of photography Luciano Tovoli is arresting, with some effective use of killer POV shots and one particular extended dolly that covers every inch of an apartment building to set the stage for a murder. Thereís also all the blood and viscera you have come to expect from Argento, as well as an ever-present electronic score that drives the movie forward (more on that later).
As protagonist Peter Neal, Anthony Franciosa is alright but he's also a bit of a ham and not always convincing in the role. But, heís at least an actor with chops and itís fun to take the journey with him. In one scene he uses the most hilarious pick-up line ever - Iíll let you discover it for yourself. Some of the other performances suffer a bit to the re-dubbing of the English dialogue (this was popular at the time). Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) is the cop on the case who has read all of Nealís previous books but can never guess the identity of the killer. Nealís ex-wife Jane (Veronica Lario) is seen around Rome, but for what mysterious reason? Itís always nice to see the awesome John Saxon (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), here playing Nealís agent.
Argento was a frequent collaborator with the electronic rock group Goblin throughout the 1970s, and although Goblin had since disbanded, Argento managed to get members Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli and Massimo Morante reunited for another punchy, symphonic score. This is the kind of score that usually sounds hopelessly dated now, but Goblin had too much talent to dismiss. The trioís work in TENEBRE is again very interesting.
The kills are graphic and inventive. Thereís a famous murder toward the end involving a lobbed-off arm that sprays a fountain of blood all over the walls, which alone has enough of the red stuff for three splatter flicks. Argento uses a lot of red on his canvas, and often in beautiful ways. While there are flaws, TENEBRE is still a moderately engaging giallo featuring some of the best work of Argentoís career, even if the whole amounts to something less than the sum of its parts.
Video / Audio
Video Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio English Dolby Surround 5.1 and Dolby Surround 2.0 ; Italian Mono
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Dario Argento, Music Composer Claudio Simonetti and Journalist Loris Curci I think the main disappointment of this track is that Argento is speaking in English, and it is obvious that he still has a lot of trouble with the language. As a result, he is constantly searching for the right words and his comments are often brief. Simonetti offers some good tidbits about composing the score, and Curciís presence is an important one, because he often fills quiet spaces by making reference to aspects of the production and asks some good questions of the other two to keep things moving.
Voices of the Unsane A 17-minute mini-documentary with interviews with many principal crew and a few actresses (Daria Nicolodi and Eva Robins). Argento talks about how he developed the idea for TENEBRE, as well as the look of the film.
The Roving Camera Eye of Dario Argento A brief excerpt from an interview with Argento that is translated into English, as he talks about the art of the moving pictures.
Alternate End Credit Music Apparently, during their initial run of the commentary track, Argento and Simonetti discovered a crappy pop song running over the end credits that they disapproved of. This is your taste of that crappy pop song. A bit of an odd addition.
Then thereís the Creating the Sounds of Terror (not even two minutes long), a Trailer and Dario Argento Bio.
TENEBRE sits pretty comfortably alongside Dario Argentoís earlier work, and provides some masterful direction and splashy gore.