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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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OPERA (1987) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by goregirl

I’m a big fan of Dario Argento’s earlier films but I don’t think I’ve watched anything after Tenebre multiple times. I probably wouldn’t have re-watched Opera had I not found it among the contents of a discarded box of VHS tapes. I see so many horror films in a year that many “good” films get lost in the shuffle. It’s often only the great and the horrifically bad that sticks with me. This is why I keep lists. Opera is one of those good films that got lost in the shuffle. Argento’s stylish and inventive visuals, great elaborate murder scenes and an absolutely amazing setting certainly make it an entertaining watch.

We begin at the rehearsal for a modern operatic adaptation of Macbeth. It is believed that performing Macbeth brings bad luck. It certainly seems the case after a car hits the production’s diva the night before it’s opening. The woman’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. But the show carries on and Betty is a huge hit with the audience and the critics. After the performance she goes back with her boyfriend to his uncle’s opulent home. Her boyfriend leaves her on the bed to pour them some tea and comes back to find her tied to a column, mouth taped shut and eyes forced open with needles. She is forced to watch the brutal killing of her boyfriend and is then freed. This sets the stage for a gory whodunit featuring a masked killer, a bunch of ravens, weird dream sequences, pulsing brains and memorable death scenes.

During the opening credits there is a shot of a raven with the opera house reflected in its eye. Besides the fact it is an incredibly cool looking shot, it also beautifully sets things up for the scene to follow. The ravens are used to great effect throughout and are pivotal to exposing the killer. The death scenes are all grandly staged and are creative and bloody enough to make up for the low body count. In the films reveal we get a remarkable raven’s-eye view of the theatre in an impressive and dizzying aerial shot. The amazing opera house where most of the film takes place is absolutely spectacular. There are also plenty of trademark Argento extended shots down hallways, up staircases, etc. Argento definitely knows a thing or two about making a stylish horror film. Based on visuals alone the film is top notch. But alas a film cannot survive on style alone.

Style it has in spades, but substance is where Opera flounders a touch. For starters, there aren’t a lot of characters in the film, which made the list of suspects pretty short. It wasn’t much of a revelation when the killer is exposed. Cristina Marsillach does a pretty good job with the wishy-washy character of Betty. The Betty character is downright useless for most of the film and really doesn’t do much of anything to help herself. I found the character annoyingly fragile. I wish Argento had given this character 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 more interesting than Betty. The dream sequences are crazy cool and relevant to the plot so pay attention. I am still scratching my head over the shots of a brain pulsing throughout the film. I have no idea what the significance of the brain shots is but I LOVED IT! I found the mix of opera and rock music interesting although it does date the film; there is no mistaking this is a film from the late 1980s.

Opera is a satisfying and entertaining flick. The idea of tying someone up, covering their mouth and taping needles under their eyes so they are forced to watch brutal death is pretty dastardly but letting your victim free only to do it again is extra sadistic. Leave it to Argento to come up with such a wonderfully twisted idea! The film is perfectly paced and felt much shorter than its runtime and Opera’s visuals alone are easily worth the price of admission. Although the killer’s identity isn’t much of a surprise, certainly his motivation was, and in the end I felt quite sated. Opera doesn’t quite live up to Argento’s older films like Deep Red, Suspiria, or Tenebre but is still a rock solid offering. Highly Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Dario Argento

Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Antonella Vitale, William McNamara, Barbara Cupisti

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

PROFONDO ROSSO – DEEP RED – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , on April 8, 2009 by goregirl

deep-red-promo-posterThis is one of my all time favorite Italian horror films. I have seen this film several times and last night I viewed it again. Because this is one of the first horror films I can remember seeing it holds an extra special place in my heart. It doesn’t scare the crap out of me like it once did, but sadly, no horror movie really does anymore. On re-watch it is still a beautiful piece of cinema. I am crazy nuts for Argento’s style of filming. He loves his prolonged shots of inanimate objects like windows and walls. Shots around corners and weird angles are extremely effective in helping set his mood. He has a knack of making even mundane objects eerie. His films are packed full with the most interesting and unique set pieces. There is a scene where they pan over a collection of odd toys, my favorite is a weird little faceless yarn wicker man-esque doll with pins in its chest. Lovely! The music is fantastic. Every time I view “DEEP RED” that little “lalalala” kids song stays in my head for days after. The performances are great. David Hemmings plays a pianist who lives below the first murder victim and witnesses her death. He is a pianist after all, not a detective and he trips, falls and bumbles his way through to the films conclusion. Daria Nicolodi does a solid job as an aggressive liberated journalist/reporter who works with Hemmings to solve the mystery. The ending is perfect. There isn’t some ridiculous convoluted or supernatural reason behind the why. The ending is simple and perfectly sensible. The gore levels are fairly tamed compared to a lot of what’s out there. But Argento offers plenty of variety with the death, from hatchet, to scalding, to decapitation. Some of you may be rolling your eyes up into your heads by now. Admittedly there has been a gratuitious use of complimentary adjectives in this review. It is true, I do have the mad love for Argento. I find no fault with this film whatsoever. Classic Giallo!

Dungeon Review: 5/5

Directed By: Dario Argento

Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra, Piero Mazzinghi, Glauco Mauri, Clara Calamai, Aldo Bonamano and Liana Del Balzo
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