It just wouldn’t be 31 days of horror if there wasn’t some Argento in there. Sticking to this year’s rule of only watching movies I haven’t seen before, Tenebre was the Argento of choice.
It’s streaming on Amazon Prime which is great but unfortunately their stream is not of the best quality. Tenebre is one of those movies that fell victim to violent edits and censorship. Amazon’s version is tragically not the uncut version of the film, it’s lost about 10 minutes of footage. Still, it’s wildly entertaining and with giallo, Argento, and Goblin in the mix, how can we go wrong?
Tenebre, 1982. Dir. & written by Dario Argento. Starring Anthony Franciosa, Giuliano Gemma, Christian Borromeo.
It’s a little hard to talk about some aspects of Tenebre since I know the version I watched is not the unedited version. So I’ll save a more in depth discussion of the violence and such for another day. Beyond that though, Tenebre is full of Argento trademarks and really is must see for any of his fans. Of course, I may be the only fan left who hadn’t seen it until now…
In true giallo style, Tenebre is about an author who is stalked by a serial killer inspired by his work. A murder mystery, there are twists, turns, and missed clues galore. Perversion and “abhorrent” sexuality are a big theme here. As in other Argento films, a major clue and the failure of a character to see what is in front of him lead to the solution of the mystery in the final act.
Even edited, Tenebre is brutally violent. It must be something to see in its full, bloody glory. While I often complain of violence in modern horror (ya know, my disdain for torture porn), the violence here is somehow more palatable. For better or worse. Maybe it’s the bright red blood…
Tenebre was banned in the UK as a “video nasty” and was quite hard to see for a long time. Now there are various DVD releases and it’s much more accessible. Definitely worth checking out I think.
While over all I don’t think the cinematography is particularly remarkable, it would be remiss of me to not mention that one crane shot everyone talks about. It’s 2 1/2 minutes long, goes up and over a building, and sets up one of the most violent & sexualized set pieces of the film. It’s a remarkable shot and for any fan of film, Tenebre is worth watching for it alone. Otherwise the lighting is much more stark and bright than I’m maybe used to from Argento. A decision that reflects the murder mystery procedural aspect of the plot rather than the supernatural turns some of his other, more surreal films take (Suspiria, I’m talking about you).
I’m a fan of Argento’s earlier work and this film continues to spark my admiration. I also adore the soundtrack. While not officially Goblin, since Goblin had split in 1980, it was composed by Simonetti and other members of Goblin. So that sort of still counts, right? It’s also sampled by Justice in their album Cross. The track Phantom is a staple on my Halloween music playlist, right next to Goblin’s score for Suspiria.