On the first day of Slashermas my true love gave to me Dark Night of the Scarecrow, on the second day of Slashermas my true love gave to me a crummy Freddy Kreuger movie, on the third day of Slashermas my true love gave to me a trip to Sleepaway Camp, on the fourth day of Slashermas my true love gave to me Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.
Tenebrae translates into “darkness” from Latin. Look at that poster. Once upon a time, kids, movie posters were an art form. My art teachers always said that if you want to emphasize the darkness then focus on the light, and vice versa. This artist gets it.
The title of this movie means “darkness” and this movie really is about the darkness in everyone.
Anthony Franciosa stars as Peter Neal, the author of “il giallo più migliore dell’anno”–the best giallo of the year.
He’s on his way to Rome to go on a book tour when weird things start to happen. He arrives in Rome and finds that his track suit is slashed. And he’s grilled pretty intensely by a journalist about his attitudes towards women. His agent, Bullmer (John Saxon) has also turned into a Frank Sinatra impersonator.
Peter is unknowingly being tailed by his creepy, unbalanced ex-fiancé, Jane (Veronica Lario.) Things go from weird to bad when people start dying and their deaths are all related to Peter’s work. A shoplifter is choked on the pages of Neal’s book–which she stole–and has her throat slit.
The journalist, Tilda (Mirella D’Angelo) and her gay lover are brutally murdered. The daughter of Peter’s landlord, Maria (Lara Wendel) is attacked by a dog and hacked to death with an axe.
Peter starts receiving notes telling him that his work is the inspiration for the killings and the killer will continue until he (or she) kills the corrupter.
Peter, his secretary, Anne (Daria effin Nicolodi!), and his assistant, Gianni (Christian Borromeo) start to hunt down the killer. They strongly suspect Christiano Berti (John Steiner), the flamboyant t.v. interviewer who’s obsessed with Peter’s work. But Peter and Gianni see him hacked to death, so the killings should stop. Right?
This movie is a ride. It looks gorgeous even on a crummy transfer to Youtube (Thanks for having nothing but Asylum films streaming, Netflix!) It’s funny that this movie is called “darkness” but every killing is in stark light. I think that emphasizes the realism of what’s happening, despite the cartoon-red Argento blood.
I’ve only seen two Argento films, this one and Suspiria but I’m beginning to notice that seeing is a theme. In Suspiria, one of the characters is literally blind and is attacked by his guide-dog (Another theme we see in this movie, dog attacks.) At another point in Suspiria, Suzy, the main character, is momentarily blinded by light through a crystal and becomes disoriented.
In Tenebrae, Gianna witnesses Christiano’s murder but becomes metaphorically blind when he represses who the killer is. We don’t know who he saw or what they said until the very end.
There’s also the idea of doubles and double lives in this movie. I’d say the double for Peter is Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma.) While Peter writes crime fiction, Germani solves real crimes. Yet, he admits that he loves crime writing but can never guess who the killer is. With these two characters there’s the idea of the real versus the fake.
There’s also Anne versus Jane. Anne, Peter’s secretary, dresses plainly and is clearly down-to-earth. She adores Peter but isn’t creepy the way Jane is. Jane dresses like a femme fatale and is clearly not right in the head.
So what’s real in this movie and what’s fake? There’s no way to tell until the end. Mostly.
At an hour and forty minutes, this movie felt overlong. It probably could be slashed–see what I did?–to an hour and a half. Still, it’s fun to watch and fun to see escalate. It was made in 1982. By then, slashers were pretty well-established. That’s probably why this giallo isn’t as decadent or psychedelic as its relatives. It still has the most amazing score by Goblin. I love their work because even while it’s so perfect for the movie, it can also stand alone. Someone’s uploaded the entire soundtrack to Youtube so I definitely recommend that you give it a listen. the music is perfect for the action and is a good reflection of eighties music.
I always try to research a movie before I write about it. Based on what I’ve read, Dario Argento got the idea for this movie from an experience with a fan. They were writing him things that started off normally but escalated to the point of becoming death threats. I like the idea of destroying what you love and it really seems to be a fitting opening to the eighties. The book Misery came out in 1988 and Rockwell’s song “Somebody’s Watching Me” came out in 1984. I’m not saying this movie is an inspiration for either of those, more like it’s fitting that obsession was the, well, obsession of the eighties.
Oh, I know you’re not here for my big words. You just want to see a picture of a giallo killer in black gloves.