Dir: Dario Argento
Star: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Mirella D'Angelo, Daria Nicolodi
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1982
Format: DVD R1

Whilst on a promotional tour to Rome for his new book "Tenebre", American mystery writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is alarmed to discover that somewhere in the city a psychopath is killing people in a manner which strangely resembles murdres that were described in the book. As if that wasn't enough, the killer is also sending him notes and death threats after each murder quoting passages from the novel. With the help of his agent (John Saxon) and his assistant (Daria Nicolodi), Neale decides to conduct an investigation to help the baffled and clueless Police force who are floundering whilst the killer gets ever closer to his goal......

Surprisingly Tenebre is still banned in several European countries. Even in the good ol' US of A the film was released as "Unsane" and had a criminal 10 minutes cropped out of it. Thankfully, this version is the full, unadulterated and uncut version. Despite being the master of Italian horror movies and the macabre, Dario Argento does present a rather pale thriller in his own inimitable directorial style.

This is definately NOT a very PC film as it exudes a strong atmosphere of misogyny and the murderer in the film mainly preys upon the fairer sex in various states of undress. All but two of the victims of the occasionally cliched and often very bloody murders are women. The murders themselves play out in a typical fashion and more often than not you can accurately guess where the "jump point" will be. One of the deaths in particular is preceeded by a cheesy eighties synth' musical interlude, that even with some nauseating but clever photography it may well leave some viewers a little perplexed. There is an abundance of exposed breasts, creeping nipples and bra-less women parading and jiggling around with very little purpose in a typical Argento fashion. There is plenty of good direction but also plenty of the cliche Argento pointless meandering of the lens which does get rather habitual and boring. Some reasonable make up effects here and there, but there is a tendency for bright red blood in an unrealistic way in some otherwise nicely put together murders. Unfortunately, there just isn't any real inventiveness to the murders, so they don't bring anything original to the screen.

Tenebre is certainly not his best work, but it is a good Argento thriller as he tries to keep the audience guessing in an almost Hitchcock stylee. Personally, I did find the film rather predictable but not in a typical stalker / thriller kind of way. Or maybe I have just seen far too many Dario Argento movies.

John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street ) is terribly under used and is not given any particular oppurtunity to shine, as he plays a poor second fiddle to Argento's Italian cast. Speaking of which, the remaining cast performances are overall quite awful and painfully wooden or just plain corny. Anthony Franciosa is probably the better of the cut-out cast, but that isn't saying much. Daria Nicolodi who plays Neale's assistant, is tedious and bland in a needless screaming wench type of way but she is Argento's ex-wife and mother of their daughter Asia Argento (xXx) but we won't hold that against her.

Tenebre was good in it's day, but that was a long time ago so it isn't very impressive by modern standards. It has a good plot but the story is full of holes, not unredeemably Swiss cheese like but the holes are sufficient to mar the film. If you start to think about it, then the whole thing rapidly starts to unravel. Good story but it just doesn't really grab you. Not even the stylish and artistic direction of Dario Argento can elevate the film to a point that it's easy to overlook a few of the flaws. Argento's direction rambles and appears in places to be downright formulaic but has some quite inventive and original moments. There are better examples of Argento's work out there, so if you are unfamiliar with his work then this is not the film to start with as this is more likely to appeal to his fans.

Tenebre is a typical Argento film with bad acting, a weak tenuous story, terrible dubbing and some near comedic death scenes that all lead to a reassuringly unsurprising ending. If you like non cerebral, unchallenging thrillers with breasts aplenty, then you'll like this.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Widescreen Generally good quality transfer but a bit grainy in places
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Not particuarly impressive and prone to hissing
Animated Menu
Audio commentary by director Dario Argento, Composer Claudio Simonetti and journalist Loris Curci
2 Behind the scenes featurettes
Theatrical trailer
Alternate end credits music
Verdict Nice to see the works of Dario Argento filtering out on DVD as good presentations. The image has been cleaned up quite nicely and for the most part so has the sound. Not a terrible disc, but the sound is a bit of a let down due to the constant hiss in the background. Some good extras which are a decent bonus

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home