Following the worldwide success of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, Master Of Horror Dario Argento returned to the giallo genre with the shocker that remains one of the director's greatest. Anthony Franciosa stars as an American myst... more »ery novelist on a promotional tour in Rome who finds that his most recent book has inspired a copycat serial killer. When the psychotic impulse becomes irresistible, does freedom await in the simple act of annihilation? John Saxon (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Daria Nicolodi (DEEP RED) and John Steiner (CALIGULA) co-star along with a nerve-shredding score by Goblin and a mind-blowing twist ending in this classic of sexual corruption, savage bloodshed and virtuoso filmmaking that fans and critics hail as an Argento masterpiece.« less
"After seeing Dario Argento's 1982 (it is '82, not '87) film "Tenebrae," I have moved into the final phases of seeing his entire body of work. It was easy to claim ignorance of many of this Italian director's films until a few years ago because it was difficult to find them anywhere, let alone in an uncut form. Fortunately, DVD arrived on the scene and eager film fans with dollars to spend inspired numerous companies to start churning out any movie they could get their hands on. It wasn't too long before practically every Argento film arrived on store shelves, many of them in uncut, unrated formats. Unfortunately, most viewers have likely never heard of Dario Argento. These days more people know about the director's beautiful daughter Asia than the horror maestro himself. What a shame. Argento's films, at least the ones I have seen, are masterpieces of style injected with truly cringe inducing violence. For a few years in the 1980s and 1990s, Argento drifted away from his tried and true giallo formula, only recently returning to some semblance of form with "The Stendhal Syndrome" and "Sleepless." "Tenebrae" was Argento's first "return" to the giallo genre, after he strayed into the supernaturally themed "Suspiria" and "Inferno."
I happen to think "Tenebrae" may well be the best Argento film I have seen, even better than his first wave of gialli. It's the story of Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), a popular writer of disturbing novels who travels to Italy to promote his latest thriller. Unfortunately for Neal, and more so for several other people, a killer decides to imitate the murders laid out in the author's most recent book. It isn't too long before the local police, in the form of Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma), make the connection between the homicides and Neal's book. With his assistant Anna (Daria Nicolodi), book agent Bullmer (John Saxon), and a young man named Gianni (Christian Borromeo) standing by his side, the popular novelist soon joins the investigation into these grisly crimes. And grisly they are as only Dario Argento can make them. We see throat slashings, stabbings, a hand liberated from a wrist, and other gooey surprises shot in the sort of alarming, extreme close up that is a trademark of this director's brand of cinematic carnage. "Tenebrae" constitutes one of Argento's most disturbingly violent escapades into the giallo genre. It is, fortunately, one of his most coherent films as well.
Neal continues to promote his book even as he helps the police in the hunt for the killer. He faces a slew of protests about the supposedly misogynistic, ultra violent content of his novels from an angry female protestor and from a smarmy television critic on one of those face-to-face talk shows. Both of Neal's critics perish horribly soon after (surprise, surprise), thus throwing some suspicion on the author himself as a prime suspect. Of course, many others could very well be the ones putting on the black gloves. The only real clue we get from Argento, if you can call it that, is a weird flashback of a young woman tormenting a boy with her red-heeled shoes. As creepy carnival style music plays throughout the flashback, we then see the focus shift to the killer stepping out from behind a hedgerow to stab the woman. What this memory means, and why we see it from the perspective of the killer, soon emerges as "Tenebrae" draws to its ultra shocking conclusion. And the conclusion is shocking, containing some of the most graphic gore I've seen as well as a truly gasp worthy revelation I won't elaborate on here except to say other films ("Nightmares in a Damaged Brain" comes to mind) have used it to great effect. "Tenebrae" is a real treat for the horror fan.
Apparently, "Tenebrae" came about after a crazed fan stalked Dario Argento. Whatever the impetus for making this film, the result is one of the director's most entertaining excursions into the realms of horror. Aside from the graphic gore, we also get the requisite Argento photographic style. Check out that crane shot of the outside of the apartment building, a shot that runs on forever while building the suspense up to a fever pitch. Then there's the great chase scene with the dog, and the murder of the television critic that we see through the windows of his house. Argento truly achieves a masterful vision of mayhem with "Tenebrae." The performances, although dubbed in spots, are darn effective too. Franciosa does a great job playing the happy go lucky Peter Neal, and it's always great to see John Saxon in another horror film (even if he does spend a lot of time messing around with that confounded hat!). "Tenebrae" also ratchets up the suspense by employing yet another mesmerizing synthesizer score from Goblin. The music heard doing those flashback sequences ranks as one of the eeriest bits of music I've ever heard in a horror movie. Yes sir, "Tenebrae" worked on nearly every level for this genre fan.
Dario Argento would go on to make several non-giallo films after "Tenebrae" ("Phenomena" starring a young Jennifer Connolly among them) before heading back to his roots again. None of his recent black-gloved nightmare thrillers, however, can match the pounding intensity of this movie. Extras on the DVD include a commentary track, an alternate end credits music piece, and a couple of behind the scenes looks at the film. Less here than on other discs, perhaps, but the movie is so good you won't care. I'm starting to get a little sad since I'm running out of Argento films to watch for the first time. Nonetheless, I now know I can always come back to "Tenebrae" when I want to see the best Dario Argento has to offer.
Mind games from the master stylist: Top-drawer Argento
Libretio | 01/22/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
(Italy - 1982)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
While fans may be divided over the relative merits (or not) of Dario Argento's recent output, there's no denying the sheer visceral power of his earlier accomplishments. TENEBRE contains some of the most genuinely frightening material in Argento's entire filmography, and some of the best performances too. Anthony Franciosa is quietly convincing in his role as an American writer in Rome, targeted by an obsessive killer who's been modelling a series of murders on scenes from the author's latest book; and the hugely underrated John Saxon provides a memorable turn as Franciosa's shady literary agent (his final scene is a small masterpiece of observation, brilliantly edited).
The rest of the cast is less sure-footed, perhaps because these veteran European actors - including Daria Nicolodi and Giuliano Gemma - aren't entirely comfortable performing in English, though the entire cast play second fiddle to the director's bravura execution of the outlandish scenario. Argento takes great delight in toying with the audience's expectations and misdirecting them with clever bits of visual trickery, whilst punctuating the narrative with a series of horrific 'exclamation marks' (such as Veronica Lario dying in a spectacular welter of gore), culminating in a truly shocking finale. What's more, he indulges his trademark eccentricities without obscuring the plot or the characterisations, and the film takes its place alongside DEEP RED (1975) as one of the enduring giallos of the 20th century. A triumph. "
Libretio | 12/09/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a film maker I cannot express how interesting it is to hear Argento talking about his own creations. Many critics, film historians and even audiences have never really taken Argento seriously, which is a real shame for them. Tenebrae is a beautifully crafted film, and although not as feverish as Suspiria or Inferno, the viewer still feels as if they are stuck in a really horrible dream. Argento is a worldclass director with a frighteningly voyeristic style. I found the scene where the girl finds out that she is in the murderers house and has to run away from the guard dogs so incredibly exploitative and nasty that i couldn't keep my eyes off it, just like when average people pass a car accident on the street. The ending just blows you away. I love this film and I really want Inferno, Suspiria and deep Red on DVD too."
AWESOME SUSPENSFUL THRILLER!!
Guido | NY United States | 07/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Released as "Unsane" and very heavily edited here in the US, this was the first film of Dario Argento I had the privledge of watching maybe around 1987 and I must say I loved it and it prompted me to check out Argento's other works. Thankfully, due mostly to the internet I was able to see "Tenebre" in it's full uncut version as well as many other Argento classics.
Over the top violence and brilliant direction make this one of Argento's best films. Horror author, Peter Neal, writes a book titled "Tenebre" and is doing a book tour, I won't go into details about the book, but there's an estranged killer that is well, an obessesive fan to say the least, so much so they decide to perform the killings exactly as they preceive them in the book. The film kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering who the killer was. Interesting, nicely paced plot, although not as interesting as "Deep Red", weird, eerie soundtrack as only Argento can deliver and great killing scenes make for an amazing flick.
Since then I have watched several of Dario Argento's films. He can be depended upon for stylish impalings, terrific use of color and shadows, and copious amounts of blood. It's cheesy Italian giallo at it's best. Fans of Argento shouldn't miss out on a chance to see this one."
One of Argento's best
Brian C. Davis | Milwaukee | 08/18/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for typical teen slasher fare, then this is *not* the film for you, but if you're looking for a truly adult serial killer terror film, Tenebre is a masterpiece. Argento's virtuso filmmaking technique is used to great effect in this film, creating genuinely sinister and suspenseful atmosphere, with amazing, sometimes jaw-dropping camerawork, brutal but elegantly staged murders, and all in the service of a very clever and well-plotted mystery from Argento that kept me guessing right up until the end.The music score by members of long-time Argento collaborators The Goblins is used very effectively, and Anthony Francisosa gives a fine performance in the lead, as an American writer in Rome, who becomes personally involved when the murders in his lastest novel start coming true.Anchor Bay has done a superb job with this release; if you are still buying VHS like me, this is about as good as it gets. The picture and sound quality are excellent, the VHS is letterboxed in the film's proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is presented unrated and uncut, as all Argento films should be."