October 7, 2014

Movie Review: Tenebrae

Much like Fulci, Dario Argento is another director who I really admire and enjoy his films, but have seen precious few of them. It is not something I am proud of, but at some point I need to step up my horror game and start scratching titles off the old list of shame (kind of like what I did with Aenigma the other day). While I still need to see Profondo Rosso and Inferno, not to mention Four Flies on Grey Velvet, I did get to scratch off one of Argento's bigger titles. That movie would be none other than Tenebrae (or Tenebre, seems to be some dissent on the spelling), known in cut form as Unsane. I have to say, not bad at all.

While I think I will always prefer Fulci's surrealism, but, man, if Argento doesn't know how to twist the knife.... Anyway, yeah. After a couple of trips into supernatural frights, Argento returns to his giallo roots with Tenebrae, a nasty slice of murder with a twist. It contains some nicely vicious murder sequences, a solid mystery, and a beautifully realized tracking shot that producers wanted to have cut down from its two and a half minute run time. Nice to see it intact.

The story tells of an American writer arriving in Rome to promote his new book, Tenebrae, only to discover there had been a murder, just hours before, of a beautiful young woman. She was slashed with a razor and had pages of the titular book stuffed in her mouth. The murder is very much like one that is in the book. As the movie progresses, more people are murdered, and all in ways similar to those depicted in the book.

As you can imagine, this does not sit well with the author, Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa). He works with police detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma), and a few others in an attempt to uncover the bad guy behind the murders. However, the murders keep coming, people keep dying, and everyone is perplexed. Then the final act arrives and things begin to twist even more until that ending.... that ending.

It may not be my favorite Argento flick, but this is one grimy, nasty piece of cinema. It is lit harsh and nasty, gone are the deep shadows and technicolor of some of his earlier work, it adds to the overall nasty tone. Peter may have a smile on his face, but he writes about some dark stuff, and know that dark stuff is becoming all too real. It is fascinating to watch Argento twist the knife ever so slowly.

Tenebrae is a movie that is gloriously graphic, it does not shy away from shedding some blood, but it is more than just a giallo. The murder mystery is just a part of it. This is a movie about things trapped in the dark corners of the mind, events long since put to bed being reawakened. A tragic/murderous past unintentionally disturbed, dug up, and revisited, all leading to more bloodshed.

Argento knows his craft, even though his more recent output (at least the ones I have seen) has been a bit lackluster, when he is on, get out of the way. He knows his way around murder, and that is kind of frightening. This movie is frightening, it is dark and plays out in an interesting fashion. Again, not my favorite, but definitely not one to be missed.


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