PLOT: An in-depth look at famed Italian Horror director Dario Argento’s life and film career.
REVIEW: There are few filmmakers that can be considered all-time greats, yet Dario Argento is most definitely one of them. From the films he’s made to the filmmakers he’s inspired, it’s evident that the world of horror would be very different without his presence. And Dario Argento Panico does a great job of proving why. A beautifully shot and all-encompassing retrospective provides a unique look at the auteur filmmaker. So if you’ve never experienced his work before then buckle up: you’re in for a ride.
While I was obviously familiar with the works of Argento, I wasn’t aware of his life. So I was consistently blown away by some of the revelations here. Dario having no prior experience before getting behind the camera for the first time is flabbergasting. Mostly because the work that he pulls off is more masterful than you’d expect from a first-timer. There were various factors that contributed to this, with his father Salvatore being the main one. Given that he was such a massive driving force in his life highlights a popular 2024 issue through the lens of the 60s and 70s: nepotism.
Whether it’s Dario himself or his daughter Asia, they were given opportunities due to who they were. This shows the other side of the argument, at least for Dario, as he’s such an auteur, that without his father’s unfettered support, he may not have been able to push the boundaries of the genre as he did. So while it may have been family that got them through the door, it was their own talent that kept them there. While others were questioning his vision, Salvatore stood by him, which just made his vision even stronger.
Regarding the technical side, Panico is very impressive. It’s beautifully shot and the main focus consistently stays on Dario. Too often these career retrospectives end up doing these random detours but thankfully this one works really well. Even the slight shift towards Asia works because it’s done in the context of Dario’s own work. Everyone is spoken to that would need to be, and provide interesting insight. I could have gone for some archive footage of George Romero, given Argento’s impact on Dawn of the Dead, but you can’t win them all.
One aspect that I really loved was Dario’s sister retelling his childhood. There’s been an increasing trend of journalists simply recounting a person’s life based on what they’ve read/studied. It can feel a little surface-level. So it’s nice to get what feels like genuine insight. I also got a lot of entertainment out of Nicolas Winding Refn‘s cocaine comparison regarding Argento’s films. The man has clearly lived an interesting life. There’s a lot of praise being heaped onto the director from all sides so fans should be pleased.
But if you hoping for some criticism of Argento’s career then you’re probably going to have to look elsewhere. This is simply 98 minutes of pure praise. Even Argento’s latter career, which is marred with terrible film after terrible film, is simply glossed over. Because of this, it feels like a little bit of the truth is missing. While I certainly understand the respectful approach taken, I do think more could have been addressed. Then there’s the Asia Argento of it all that just adds an air of unease to her segments.
In the end, there’s a lot to like about Dario Argento Panico. While some films are glossed over a little too quickly, that’s expected for a man with such a filmography. I’d argue it’s been over 30 years since we’ve gotten a good film from him, so sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the director he once was. This was proof as to why Argento left the impact that he did. From films such as Suspiria to Deep Red, he made some of the most interesting films in all of Italian Horror but it’s evident that his biggest accomplishment was the many lives he touched along the way.
DARIO ARGENTO PANICO IS STREAMING ON SHUDDER ON FEBRUARY 2ND, 2024.