Reviewed by Kryten Syxx
Starring Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, John Steiner, Daria Nicolodi
Directed by Dario Argento
Distributed by Anchor Bay Home Entertainment
Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is riding high on the hog. His book is #1, and he gets to fly out to Rome for a publicity tour. The money is rolling in, the fame is plentiful, and the fans are … sometimes too into his work. OK, way too into his work!
Someone is murdering women in Rome with a straight razor and stuffing pages from his latest literary creation down their throats. The police are baffled, and hunting down a suspect is proving difficult when the killer leaves almost no trail to follow. Peter isn’t helping matters out much as he has his own deep, dark secret that is raging to be revealed.
Tenebre is a straight up giallo flick from Dario Argento; the violence, gore, and sexuality are heavy and make for a fun time as one would expect. However, the characters and story surrounding the goods are not strong enough to grab one’s attention during the breaks in blood splatter.
Peter Neal should be a heavily developed character by the end of the movie, but he stays mainly in the background until the last 20 minutes where he ::SPOILERS:: loses his mind and starts offing people after the murder of the real killer. That’s just a little too abrupt for my tastes. We’re given hints on and off via dreams of delusions that Peter did something bad at one point, but the emotional connection or payoff feels light and botched.
Misused or underused is a term that carries on to other characters that clearly had potential for being fleshed out. The two inspectors that sort of flirt on and off never see their relationship become anything more than an afterthought. Here’s another ignored opportunity to have the audience impacted by the death of characters.
Death happens in Tenebre just to happen.
Is Tenebre good for blood and boobs? Sure is. Can it entertain as a whole? Not really; that is what Phenomena (review) is for.
Tenebre’s special features don’t outshine the film itself but are good despite the underwhelming flick. Voices of The Unsane lets Dario and Daria Nicolodi express their experiences of filming this one. This featurette is part behind-the-scenes and part making-of; some special effects shots are explained and cast decisions are explored. Short and to the point.
The Roving Camera Eye of Dario Argento is a behind-the-scenes look back at how some of the memorable camera work was achieved in Tenebre. This featurette appears to be quite old, so we're not sure where it had appeared before. Either way, we’re shown how the shot where the camera floats 180 degrees around a two-story house is achieved with the thanks to a special telescopic arm. It’s impressive, but the featurette is only a couple of minutes long with no further explanation given or other examples shown.
Want to know how to make effective sound effects for your own film? Then check out the Creating the Sounds of Terror special feature. Another short supplement that simply shows how to make effective stabbing, chopping, and sneaking sounds with common household items. It’s just like an episode of Mr. Wizard but with more murder!
Again, like on the Phenomena DVD, the audio commentary is hard to hear and dead for long periods of time. Dario does answer some questions that quite a few fans have probably wondered (i.e., why do his films often contain a majority of violence towards women?). Too bad it’s a real bitch to hear or understand his comments due to the levels being off. Think of it as a Dinner for Fiends: Creepy is loud and I sound like I’m talking through a speaker phone that’s located in a room across the hall from my location.
Though this film isn’t one of Argento’s strongest, it has that great 1970s giallo style, lots of nudity, and brutality that can make hardened genre lovers wince. Tenebre also comes packed in the box set with Phenomena and three other films. Check ‘em out below.
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5