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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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TENEBRE (1982) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by goregirl

Dario Argento has been one of my favourite horror film directors for as long as I can remember. I have watched several of his films multiple times and in my opinion ‘Tenebre’ is one of his best. It is one of Argento’s most graphic entries, containing more violence and nudity than his previous offerings. It also has one of the best finales EVER!

Author Peter Neal travels to Italy to promote Tenebre, his latest book. 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’ has a classic Giallo setup and is one of Argento’s most plot-driven films that offers twists and turns around every corner. Story is not sacrificed for style but certainly the trademark Argento is present. The most obvious example of this is a lengthy crane shot of the outside of a house that travels up and over the roof and then finally down to where we see the killer breaking in. There are several memorable death sequences, among them, a curvy, large-breasted woman running naked from her killer who dies in grand style with her head crashing through glass. There’s a dog attack, strangulation, and death by knife, axe and razor. Another aspect of ‘Tenebre’ I find fascinating is the bizarre, dreamy flashback sequence revealed to us in snippets throughout the film. The focal point is 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. She teases relentlessly; showing her breasts to a random group of men. Later in the segment she is seen repeatedly kicking the unknown person and then shoving the heel of her red pump into their mouth.

The performances are great across the board. Anthony Franciosa is excellent as Peter Neal and Daria Nicolodi gives one of her best performances as his assistant. The two have great chemistry together. The supporting cast are also excellent, particularly 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 are both solid and memorable in their roles. A bevy of beautiful woman, including transsexual Eva Robins also leaves a lasting impression.

‘Tenebre’ is a well-filmed, suspenseful and gory horror-thriller complimented by a score composed by ex-Goblin members Morante, Pignatelli and Simonetti. I’ve seen this film multiple times and even though I know how it all turns out, the finale is never any less thrilling. ‘Tenebre’ is a rock solid horror film and one of my all time favourite Gialli. Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Dario Argento

Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Christian Borromeo, Mirella D’Angelo, Veronica Lario, Ania Pieroni, Eva Robins, Carola Stagnaro, John Steiner, Lara Wendel, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma

HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , on January 4, 2010 by goregirl

‘House On The Edge Of The Park’ was a recommendation left for me some time ago. Directed by Ruggero Deodato the man behind ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, I was all ramped up for some extreme violence. ‘House’ has its disturbing moments to be sure but the film is actually a slow boil and is almost gore-free. It is a film that definitely gets under your skin though.

Mechanic Alex and his friend Ricky invite themselves to the party of an attractive socialite couple after they pull into his garage with car troubles. When it becomes obviously that the group are having fun at their expense Alex lays siege and terrorizes the group. But the group of attractive well-to-do’s may have their own agenda.

In the films opening scene we see Alex forcing a woman to stop her car, who he then rapes and strangles to death. ‘House On The Edge Of The Park’ is a harsh film, make no mistake about it. But for a harsh film not all that much really happens. Alex is a rather unsavoury character, but the group of young, arrogant well-to-do’s don’t exactly garner any empathy. The only character in this film I had any sympathy for at all is Alex’s simple friend Ricky. Well, him and poor Cindy, the neighbour who drops by uninvited. Poor Cindy is in the films most brutal scene, and she even gets her own theme song. I was engrossed by the stark and brutal film style and it definitely has a sleazy exploitative quality. I did have some issues with ‘House’ however. I felt really annoyed by the group’s inability, or outright refusal to fight back. This is explained to some extent in the films ending but still didn’t work for me. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the ending. On one hand it does answer some questions, but on the other hand it poses a few new ones that are never answered.

The performances are pretty good. David Hess cuts an intimidating figure and is a memorable sociopath. Giovanni Lombardo Radice is convincing as Ricky, his dim-witted friend. He emulates Alex but is incapable of being his equal. This is clear in a scene where Alex insists he have his way with one of the women at the party. Ricky cannot bring himself to violate the shaking and crying woman. Annie Belle is spot on as the snobby Lisa and takes teasing to a whole new level. At one point in the film she actually invites Alex to shower with her and refuses to see it through.

It’s not much of a surprise when Alex goes ape shit on the group. It’s clear he hasn’t come for the martinis and the good company. The group have a lot of fun at Ricky’s expense, getting him drunk and then cheering him on as he does a striptease and then stealing all his money in a rigged poker game. Meanwhile Lisa is teasing the hell out of Alex, who all things considered, seems to be on his best behaviour. But his last nerve is trampled on and all shit breaks loose. Both male party guests have the snot beaten out of them. One of the guys is thrown into the pool to cool down and is then pissed on by Alex. He spends the rest of the film tethered to the leg of a coffee table. But it’s the women in the film that endure the real humiliation.

There is lot’s of nudity in this film. The camera lingers often on the naked bodies of its female cast. Even Hess gets naked. But if you are looking for a body count, you’ll want to look elsewhere. ‘House On The Edge Of The Park’s’ strong menacing atmosphere is quite effective but it is a little slower paced than I would have expected. The inability of the victims to fight back as well as an iffy ending did leave a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, but I still found the film strangely compelling. The films soundtrack is excellent and that Cindy Oh Cindy song still haunts me. The disc we rented had a lengthy interview with Hess that is actually quite interesting, as well as considerably shorter interviews with Giovanni Lombardo Radice and director Ruggero Deodato. Enjoy would be the wrong word to use here, but I actually liked this film. Recommended…with warning.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: David Hess, Annie Belle, Christian Borromeo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Marie Claude Joseph, Gabriele Di Giulio, Brigitte Petronio, Karoline Mardeck, Lorraine De Selle