Sunday, 14 July 2013
I think it is safe to say that Dario Argento's films divide horror fans. There are many of us out there that love his use of vivid colors, inventive camera angles and brutal death scenes. Then there are other horror fans who see his films as derivative trash. Tenebre is what I consider to be Argento's greatest achievement. Everything in the story comes together and works so well, and the movie features very little of the confusing logic you sometimes get in Italian cinema. I personally don't think Argento ever hit the heights he reached with Tenebre again.
The story is typical a typical Giallo. Peter Neal is a horror writer whose books are incredibly popular in Europe. He travels to Italy to promote his latest work, which is called Tenebrae. While in Italy, a killer strikes, and send Peter a letter telling him how his books have inspired this person to kill. An investigation into the killing occurs, and as the murders continue, the list of suspects dwindles as each meets their untimely demise at the hands of a black gloved killer. Is Peter safe from the crazed murderer? Will the culprit ever be caught?
The first thing that hits you in this movie is just how bright everything is. Tenebre maybe latin for Darkness, but this movie is filled with light. Even the night time scenes are lit incredibly well. It gives the film a sterile and up to date feel that doesn't seem to have aged at all even after thirty one years after it's release. The movie still looks incredible to this day.
In some scenes, it feels that Argento is answering his critics who had labelled him misogynistic amongst other things. Twice in the movie, Peter Neal is confronted with the inherent sexism and perversion of his work. Once when he is attacked by a lesbian journalist who wonders why Peter continues to write books with women as murder victims and ciphers, and again when he appears on a talk show, and the host asks Peter if he wants to discuss the madness and misogyny in his work. It feels as if Argento is saying "This is my work. It is beautiful. It really doesn't matter what society thinks".
Tenebre features what could be considered Argento's most linear narrative to date. It features none of the fantasy or supernatural elements of his two previous films, Suspiria and Inferno, and is based solely in the real world. The production values, as with all Argento movies, are incredibly high. Even though the movie is set in Italy, Argento refuses to show the viewer any landmarks, leaving them with a feeling of unfamiliarity and helplessness.
The murders, as always, are spectacular in their composition and execution. The way the blood hits the white wall in one particularly graphic dismemberment is both beautiful and shocking, as are many of the murders in Tenebre. These set pieces definitely stand out as being both spectacular and also particularly nasty, especially when compared to Argento's previous Gialli, but again, I am sure that was Argento's intention in response to being labelled a misogynist.
Tenebre really is one of Argento's most deranged nightmares. From the opening minutes of the movie, it engages the viewer, and the mystery seems to play fair, considering Argento's past Giallo's. The movie is committed to filling the screen with shocks, thrills and beautiful but brutal death scenes, and it achieves it's goals again and again. It truly is the work of a man who is either a genius, or completely insane. Either way, Tenebre is possibly the greatest Giallo film ever made.