Tag Archives: Dario Argento

Sunglasses at Night

Dark Glasses

by Hope Madden

Giallo is the soap opera of horror, and you have to embrace that to appreciate it. Emotion and drama, tension, fear and sexuality are amped up to a ludicrous degree, with sense and sensibility tossed out the window.

Few have ever done this as well as Dario Argento. I’d argue Mario Bava, but many consider Argento the king of giallo, and with good reason – his landmark 1977 film Suspiria may be the high-water mark for the entire genre. After a decade away from filmmaking in general and longer still since his last giallo, Argento returns to form with Dark Glasses.

Passions run high and bad decisions are rampant as Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) attempts to evade a serial killer. But wait, it’s more complicated than that! You see, she’s also blind and has sort of kidnapped this kid. It’s better if you don’t ask.

Though the score is not from Goblin, composer Arnaud Rebotini’s electronic soundtrack conjures classic giallo. Indeed, between those recognizable chimes and an early throat severing, you’d think you were watching Argento of old. But the filmmaker does have a couple new ideas in store, and marginally less misogyny onscreen.

Diana’s a harder-edged protagonist than what you find in other films from the Italian maestro. A high-end sex worker, she’s nonplussed about her line of work and disinterested in anyone else’s opinion of it. She’s a peculiar central character and Argento, who co-wrote the script with frequent collaborator Franco Ferrini (Opera, Phenomena), gives her more to do than elude victimization. She develops skills and bonds in the second act that feel reasonable and realistic, sometimes even tender. It helps ground the film in character before those characters step into a den of watersnakes and remind you that you are essentially watching a soap opera.

There are some inventive kills, gore aplenty, and loads of reminders of why Argento has developed such a boisterous following. This is by no means his best film, but it’s by no means his worst, either.

Everyone yells when they shouldn’t yell, everyone pauses when they shouldn’t pause, everyone talks when they shouldn’t talk, but who cares when the blood is this red and free-flowing?

Color Me Weirded Out

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

by Hope Madden

For a Belgian film, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears sure feels Italian.

Married writing/directing team Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani appear to be fans of Italian horror – the gaillo style of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, in particular.  Their more memorable films had a dreamlike quality, and often boasted vivid colors and superb cinematography. Almost invariably their storylines were mysteries wherein an unknown marauder in black leather gloves picked off beautiful women in particularly bloody fashion.

Or, for Cattet and Forzani: check, check, check and check.

Bava and especially Argento have often been criticized for the overt sexuality and misogyny of their work, but Cattet and Forzani are not among the critics. Indeed, their film takes all those elements Bava and Argento are known for, amps them up, then basically drops the idea of any coherent narrative. The result is a visually arresting fantasy of blood and sexuality.

A man returns from a business trip abroad to find that his wife is missing, but the chain was on the door, so how is that even possible? He promptly drinks himself into a stupor, harasses his neighbors, then begins collecting weird clues. There ends any sense of narrative structure.

From there expect a lot of heavy breathing, ornately decorated bedrooms, hidden passageways, and characters with suspicious backgrounds and nefarious motives. Plus a lot of nudity and plenty of blood.

Cattet and Forzani display an imaginative and commanding directorial style. The film’s serpentine structure suits the almost unconnected scenes, saturated with color and surreal imagery. They’ve created a truly dreamlike quality with a film rich with bizarre and provocative ideas. And had their film been a short, or even a sixty minute exercise, it would have been quite a product. Unfortunately, it runs for 102 minutes.

Long before the film is over the novelty may wear off, as well as the astonishment with the directorial mastery. It begins to feel like a bad dream that is no longer very scary, just tiresome in that it won’t end. Maybe a few additional themes or ideas would help, as the film circles back so often to the same cycles of images that it grows wearying. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is a fine cinematic experiment, just not an entirely successful one.


Original Title: Lord This Movie Sucks


By Hope Madden

Rob Zombie returns to film after a blessed hiatus with the hot mess Lords of Salem. In it, Zombie’s talentless wife Sheri Moon Zombie plays a radio DJ haunted by Salem’s past.

Try to ignore the ludicrous radio station situation: Boston’s most popular DJs are actually based at a Salem station. Sure, they’re patterned after a  hyperbolic morning show – sound effects and all – even though they appear to be a nighttime program. They also play no music save snippets of hardcore weirdness, but I’m sure that’s the kind of thing a major market really goes for.

What can’t be ignored is Zombie’s mishmash of horror gimmicks, recalling Kubrick and Argento as well as the slew of witch films popular in the late Sixties and early Seventies. This is not a knock, really. It’s Zombie’s overt fandom that has defined his directorial style since his first film. But don’t recall Kubrick unless your film can stand up to the comparison. Lords of Salem cannot.

Overly designed sets and loads of disturbing nudity hope to draw your attention away from weak dialogue, weaker plotting, ridiculous acting and general pointlessness. More than anything, though, the film is dull – just a whole lot of nothing really happening.  A lot to look at, but no action at all.

Just Sheri Moon Zombie and her acting prowess. Yeah, that’s really scarier than anything the film does intentionally.