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Favourite Five Series: DARIO ARGENTO

Posted in Favourite Five Series, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2013 by goregirl

My Favourite Five Series continues with director Dario Argento. Argento has 23 director credits on IMDB. I have seen all of Argento’s directorial efforts with the exception of the 2012 film Dracula 3D. It has been getting more and more difficult to be enthusiastic about Argento’s films as the years go by. The 70s and 80s were his high years, but he did produce a few intriguing efforts in the 90s also. Just the same, Argento’s name is still one of the first that comes to mind when I think of genre favourites. The following five films have endured multiple viewings and still shine with the lustre of a million jewel-filled treasure chests. Argento’s stylish visuals are what makes his unique, surreal, violent, sexy, dreamy-nightmarish and horrifying world so bloody special.

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DEEP RED (1975)

Deep Red has long been not only a favourite Argento film but an all time favourite horror film period. It has had a place on my top 100 favourites of all time for as long as that list has existed. As a matter of fact the same can be said for the next two Argento films listed here. Deep Red boasts Argento’s unique and stylish visuals; prolonged shots of inanimate objects like windows, shots around corners and weird angles. The man can make the most mundane of objects eerie. It is packed with interesting and unique set pieces; especially appealing is a collection of odd toys. Love the faceless yarn Wicker Man-esque doll with pins in its chest and of course this guy…

Deep Red2

The score for Deep Red is fantastic. The performances are great. David Hemmings plays a pianist who lives below the film’s first murder victim and witnesses her death. He is a pianist not a detective and he trips and bumbles his way to the end with a likable and natural turn. Daria Nicolodi does a solid job as an aggressive liberated journalist/reporter who works with Hemmings to solve the mystery. The twist and finale are one of Argento’s finest. Argento offers plenty of variety with the death, from hatchet, to scalding, to decapitation. Argento’s flawless Gialli is a Classic!

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TENEBRE (1982)

While all of Argento’s films feature creative death sequences Tenebre is one of his most graphic entries containing more violence and nudity than his previous offerings. Author Peter Neal has travelled to Italy to promote his latest book Tenebre. When he arrives at his temporary lodgings he is greeted by two police detectives. A local woman has been found slashed to death by a straight razor with several pages of his new book shoved into her mouth. This is only the beginning in a string of Tenebre inspired murders. As the bodies continue to pile up around him, Neal unwillingly becomes involved in the case and even does a little detective work of his own. Tenebre boasts plenty of twists and turns in what may be Argento’s most plot-driven offering. The Giallo features are firmly intact with red-herrings, black leather gloves and death most beautiful. There are several well-executed death sequences including a particularly impressive crane shot of the outside of a house that follows a busty woman in various states of undress whose life inevitably comes to a brutal end. There is also a dog attack, strangulation, stabbing, axing and razor slashing. There is also an outstanding reoccurring dream/flashback sequence of a woman in a white dress wearing red pumps. The viewer doesn’t know which character is having the vision, but the woman in the white dress clearly torments them and is central to the plot.

Tenebre

Anthony Franciosa is excellent as Peter Neal and Daria Nicolodi gives an amiable performances as his assistant. The two have great chemistry. The supporting cast give sweet support; John Saxon who plays Neal’s sleazy agent, Lara Wendel who plays Maria, the landlord’s jailbait daughter and Christian Borromeo who plays errand boy Gianni. Tenebre is a well-filmed, suspenseful and gory horror-thriller complimented by a brilliant score composed by ex-Goblin members Morante, Pignatelli and Simonetti. Tenebre is top drawer horror entertainment.

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SUSPIRIA (1977)

Suspiria is Dario Argento’s best known film and for good reason. It is without a doubt his most impressive film visually; particularly his epic use of color. Suspiria is the first installment in Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy. The plot revolves around Suzy a new student at a prestigious dance academy run by a coven of witches. Inventive camera work, beautiful colors, impressively staged death scenes, an excellent cast and epic soundtrack are the icing on the cake.

Suspiria

Suspiria Without a doubt is one of the most beautiful horror films ever made; a truly stunning nightmare! There is pitch-perfect mood and a feeling of unease established from the moment Suzy Bannion arrives at the Ballet school that doesn’t let up until the final Credits. Its beauty is quite remarkable but is only one of its impressive qualities. Suspiria is claustrophobic, intense, suspenseful and thrilling. Suspiria is a bona fide horror masterpiece.

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INFERNO (1980)

Inferno, Dario Argento’s second installment in the “Three Mothers” trilogy is one of his best and most under-appreciated flicks. The story moves from a prestigious dance school in Germany to an apartment building in the USA. An architect named Varelli built separate dwellings for the three mothers in Rome, Freiberg and New York. Writer Rose Elliot acquires a tome entitled The “Three Mothers”; a trio of sisters who ruled the world with darkness and sorrow. Rose believes her current dwelling to be the former home of one of the sisters. An investigation of the building reveals horrors that appear to inspire a chain of violent events. Easily one of Argento’s most gorgeous films it does not let down in the horror category either. Anyone who appreciates Argento’s style should rank Inferno high among their favorites. The colors, shadows, hidden passages, black gloved-killers, amazing sets and especially the superb underwater sequence are just a few of its notable assets.

Inferno

Inferno is a visual extravaganza; the cinematography, lighting, fantastic surreal sets and beautifully bizarre and nasty images linger in the mind for days on end. Inferno is truly a feast for the eyes; sit back and let it wash over you with its dream logic.

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The above four films have long been favourite Argento flicks but choosing a fifth was rather a bitch. I re-watched The Stendhal Syndrome, Opera, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Phenomena before making this list as I gave all four of these Argento entries a 4/5 rating. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was the nicest looking film visually, The Stendhal Syndrome had the most intriguing story and Phenomena had the best effects but in the end it was Opera and its gore that won my heart and a spot on this list.

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OPERA (1987)

Performing Macbeth is believed to bring bad luck. The urban legend appears to be true after the lead of a modern operatic version of the play is hit by a car. The dead diva’s reluctant understudy Betty is brought in to replace her. The bad luck continues into opening night when a huge lighting fixtures falls from a balcony and a stagehand is killed. Alas the show must go on but at what price? Betty soon finds out after being assaulted. Betty is tied to a column, her mouth is taped shut and her eyes are forced open with needles. She has no choice but to watch the brutal killing of her boyfriend and is then freed. This sets the stage for a gory whodunnit featuring a masked killer, ravens, weird dream sequences, pulsing brains and memorable death scenes. The film’s ravens are used to great effect throughout and are pivotal to exposing the identity of the killer.

opera

The death scenes are all creative, bloody and grandly staged affairs. Specially notable and memorable is the perfectly executed bullet to the eye and a beautifully excessive stabbing death. The stunning opera house where most of the film takes place really is spectacular as are Argento’s countless trademark extended shots down hallways, up staircases not to mention a monumental dizzying birds-eye view. Opera has style in spades, but it does flounder just a touch in the substance category. Cristina Marsillach does a pretty good job with the wishy-washy character of Betty. Betty is downright useless for most of the film and really doesn’t do much of anything to help herself. I would have liked her character to have had a little more strength and depth. With the exception of Betty’s boyfriend who is as wishy-washy as she is, most of the supporting characters are actually far more interesting than Betty. Admittedly the killer’s identity isn’t much of a surprise although his motivation certainly was, and it left me sated nonetheless. The dream sequences are crazy cool and relevant to the plot so pay attention. I found the mix of opera and rock music interesting although the rock pieces do date the film; there is no mistaking this is a film from the late 1980s. Opera is perfectly paced and felt much shorter than its runtime and its visuals alone are easily worth the price of admission. A beautifully filmed, entertaining and energetic entry worthy of accolades.

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DEMONS 2 (1986) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by goregirl

‘Demons’ is about a group of people who get trapped in a movie theatre with demons. ‘Demons 2’ is about a group of people who get trapped in a high-rise apartment building with demons. Much like the original film, it has great demon makeup and effects, blood and gore and lots of action. In keeping with the original, it also has inane dialog and no real story or explanation for what is happening. And that is just fine.

There are a couple cast members that return from the original like the pimp who is now playing a fitness instructor, and one of the four bad-ass coke kids shows up as a security guard. There is also a very young Asia Argento in her first feature film role. We are given a brief introduction to several characters. A couple with a young daughter, a couple expecting their first child, a girl celebrating her sixteenth birthday, a prostitute and her john, a little boy and a fitness trainer, among others. A cast of characters who will undergo some unusually grotesque changes to their bodies. The catalyst to get this one moving is some manner of documentary/made for T.V. film that recalls the demon apocalypse that happened only a short time ago. They have now sealed off the infected area and two curious couples go and check it out. The group are psyched when they find a perfectly preserved demon in some rubble. They gather around to have their pictures taken with the creature. One of the females who had accidentally cut her hand earlier drips blood right into the demons mouth reanimating it. Various characters in the film are watching this on their televisions but one very special birthday girl is going to get an extra special surprise this year!

Birthday girl Sally has a major suck fit screaming at her guests to get out and storms into her bedroom. Her friends continue to party it up while she has become mesmerized by the aforementioned demon show. She watches as a demon walks towards the camera, getting closer and closer until he pushes his way through the screen and into her bedroom. Her friends call to her to come out so she can blow out the candles on her birthday cake. And we have our first demon. She then converts her guests and we have our first demon swarm. Sally seemed like she might have been possessed already but she is one relentless demon and takes quite a licking and bounces back. She also looks pretty damn sweet! There are some very cool looking demons here, but I didn’t think there was a transformation quite as impressive as the one in the original film. This one also didn’t seem quite as gory. They definitely upped the ante on the wackiness though, adding a child demon, a little winged demon and best of all, a demon dog! The kid, dog and Sally are worth the price of admission alone.

‘Demons 2’ does take a little too long to get going. It started to feel a bit redundant being introduced to character after character. You really don’t learn anything that’s going to make you root for them. I did not rent ‘Demons 2’ for its awesome story! The characters are all just demon fodder, which I think is just dandy. I definitely liked the ending to the original better but I did kinda dig the way they fake you out at the end in this one. Soundtrack vs. soundtrack I would definitely have to give that to ‘Demons 2’. The soundtrack to this one was much improved!

I really enjoyed ‘Demons 2’. Although it does take a bit longer to get rolling, when it does, it is delightfully demonic high-energy fun! As a film unto itself I thought ‘Demons 2’ was great, but as a sequel it didn’t quite live up to the original. A pretty entertaining duo of films none the less. ‘Demons 2’ would be a lovely addition to any 80’s horror collection. Highly Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Lamberto Bava

Starring: David Edwin Knight, Nancy Brilli, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Bobby Rhodes, Asia Argento, Virginia Bryant, Anita Bartolucci, Antonio Cantafora, Luisa Passega