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Tenebre (1982)

Tenebre (1982)

Back of the box...

“Take a bizarre voyage into the psycho-sexual as premier exponent of the horror thriller, Dario Argento, will strip your nerves raw!
‘He realized every human obstacle, every humiliation could be swept aside by this simple act of annihilation: Murder.’ — from ‘Tenebre’ by Peter Neal.
American author Peter Neal is on his way to Rome for a press conference as his new detective novel, ‘Tenebre’, is high on the best-seller list. On arrival he is greeted by a threatening anonymous phone call and the news that a young girl has been found with her F slashed—her mouth stuffed with pages from his book! Suddenly Neal is plunged into the center of a series of senseless, violent murders.
‘Tenebre’ holds the key to who the bloodthirsty homicidal maniac is. And that crucial link must be found before others pay the ultimate price for their hidden desires.
Tenebre, the latest masterpiece from ‘the new Hitchcock,’ has been called ‘Brilliant,’ ‘A tour de force,’ ‘A sublimely involving yarn,’ and ‘A shattering bloodbath,’ which made it a blockbuster in European cinemas.”

Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Daria Nicolodi, John Saxon

Watch the Trailer

Dario Argento made his return to the giallo film genre with Tenebre, a movie that addresses his critics accusations of misogyny in his films and was inspired by real life death threats he received after the success of his 1977 film Suspiria. Tenebre focuses on what Argento considers the most vile act of all; senseless murder. He believed that the true horror of the modern world was murder without meaning.

The film opens with American author Peter Neal enroute to Rome in an effort to promote his new novel, Tenebre. Shortly after arriving he’s met by the news that a woman has been recently murdered in a copycat fashion to his book and it’s not long before he’s drawn into the investigation. Now Neal’s obligated to assist detectives as they track down a deranged fan who feels empowered by the novel to act out his killer instincts on what he considers sexual deviants.

Critics have long complained about the eroticised deaths of attractive women in Argento’s films as well as the question of social responsibility in regard to the depiction of graphic violence in movies. Neal faces similar criticisms for his novel and is forced to address the question of social responsibility as the bodies pile up. We get the sense that we’re hearing Argento address his critics directly with Neal’s accusation to the cops “if someone is killed with a Smith and Wesson revolver do you go and interview the president of Smith and Wesson?” In a later scene we witness his pendulum swing of emotions as he expresses regret over having written the novel.

Filmed in Rome, Argento intentionally avoided any recognizable landmarks as he intended the film to take place in a fictional town in a not-too-distant future. This is almost unremarkable with the exception of a brief encounter with a Demolition Man style video phone in the office of Neal’s agent. Another hint towards the futurism of Tenebre is Argento’s choice of Brutalistic architecture, which is on display in his iconic tracking shot as the camera moves from window to window of an apartment complex. The scene, like much of the movie, is elevated by an amazing synth/disco infused score performed by members of a recently disbanded Goblin.

Tenebre was released in the U.S. with the title Unsane and, supposedly, all of the violence removed. This made the story difficult for audiences to follow and, big surprise, the film was not received well by critics. For no obvious reason, other than possibly the death count, Tenebre was put on England’s “video nasty” list leading to a countrywide ban. Veronica Lario, the actor who played Jane, married the Prime Minister of Italy and due to his objection to her death scene, further censorship and a brief ban in Italy ensued. Despite these numerous hurdles, Tenebre is now considered to be a classic and one of Argento’s best films.

As fans of Argento’s distinctive visual style and the almost Scooby-Doo-esque mystery who-done-it quality often present in his films, we highly recommend Tenebre. It has its flaws but once that synth/disco theme song hits, you’ll have no difficulty looking past them to enjoy the movie.

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