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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcockian thriller, or self-reflexive experiment?
Argento's best films appeal to the audience's love of the 'whodunit' genre. Even when you strip away all the other factors that often draw people to his work - whether it's the torrents of gore, the sumptuous use of photography, or merely the camp value of some of the performances - it's the overall plot (and the set-pieces that punctuate it) that really grabs our...
Published on 9 Aug. 2005 by Jonathan James Romley

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great
An involving and intelligent film which is more a whodunnit than a Gialo and Argent's last good (but not great) film until Sleepless.

Tenebrae is a flash (see the beautiful tracking shot and the designer clothes) but somewhat, indefinably, empty film which relies more on the ability of the cast to look good than on Argento's direction.

An American...
Published on 12 April 2010 by E. Veldon


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcockian thriller, or self-reflexive experiment?, 9 Aug. 2005
Argento's best films appeal to the audience's love of the 'whodunit' genre. Even when you strip away all the other factors that often draw people to his work - whether it's the torrents of gore, the sumptuous use of photography, or merely the camp value of some of the performances - it's the overall plot (and the set-pieces that punctuate it) that really grabs our attention, and rewards our patients with a blistering, head-scratching, climax. For me, there's simply nothing better than immersing yourself in a story that offers clues and characters that seemingly point to one thing, but, with the writer and director simultaneously offering the viewer enough twists and turns to throw us off the scent, and keep us guessing, right the way through to the end.
Argento's best film, in my opinion, is Deep Red, because it is there that Argento finds the perfect balance between detective fiction, Hitchcockian suspense, and the lurid, over-the-top gore of the Italian Giallo series. Tenebrae continues the formula developed in Deep Red - as well as other classic Argento, like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and The Cat O' Nine Tails - but also adds a strong element of self-referential, self-reflexivity. Argento had always thrived on alluding back to his earlier work... I mean, look at the references to The Bird With the Crystal Plumage in Deep Red, or the continuation between Suspiria and Inferno. Here however, it's not enough for the director to give us a lengthy set-piece involving a crazed dog that seems to want to reference the death of the blind man in Suspiria, or the lingering shots of the killer's leather gloves (an Argento trademark), we instead have a director who is using the script to not only deconstruct his own image and persona, but also, to deconstruct the film it's self.
So, Tenebrae is a thriller about a writer of thrillers who, whilst on a promotional tour in Italy for his new book (...also called Tenebrae), finds himself the focus of a deranged serial killer, who is offing his victims according to the grisly murders found in the very same author's work. This gives Argento the storyteller the excuse to comment on the notion of storytelling, and even in two scenes, answer his own critics through the opinion of his central character. Of course, the film doesn't necessarily have to be enjoyed as a self-reflexive experiment (though it's probably best if you do), with Argento also having a great deal of fun in devising these bizarre scenes and scenarios, whilst simultaneously orchestrating this grandiose, gore-filled Giallo with a bold approach to cinematography, montage and music.
Like Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Deep Red, the besieged author is forced to turn amateur sleuth in order to catch the killer before the killer gets to him. What makes Tenebrae a little more interesting however, is that aforementioned streak of self-reflection and a major twist on perspective that easily rivals the great revelation towards the end of Deep Red, with Argento once again playing with the notions of subjective memory, perspective, and the idea of sight and sightlessness. The detective story central to the plot is as enjoyable as those found in other Argento works of the same era, whilst there's some extraordinarily inventive murder scenes, brilliantly photographed within the broad-light of day to go against the usually dark or nocturnal settings associated with this genre. One of the film's most talked about death scene involves a lengthy crane shot from the killer's perspective that runs right the way across the roof of the house, stopping only momentarily to glance back and forth through the various windows, before slipping in through one of the skylights. There's also the great scene when the author and his young assistant keep watch on a possible suspect, only for that very same suspect to later turn up with an axe through the head.
However, for those watching the film to enjoy the subtle plotting and self-aware construction of the script, there's a number of amazing discussions scenes between the author and the requisite chief-of-police, who discuss the literary crime classics in relation to pulp horror, whilst also adding a further dimension to an already multi-faceted film. For example; there's a scene in which the author is questioned about his book's sexism and the idea of a character being a 'social deviant' (the in-film-journalist's description of one of the book's homosexual characters) are both criticisms thrown at Argento's work, whilst in a later scene, the detective tells the author that he guessed the killer's identity on page 30... a subtle allusion to the twists and turns scattered throughout Tenebrae it's self.
As with a lot of Argento's work, the performances aren't all peerless, a fact not helped by the Italian's insistence on dubbing their work in post-production, although, that said, there's some admirable moments, particularly from Anthony Franciosa as the author, Peter Neal, Argento's former muse Daria Nicolodi as his assistant Ann, and b-movie stalwart John Saxon as Neal's publisher, who may, or may not, be a part of the whole conspiracy. Of course, at the end of the day, the film is all about the writhing narrative, the mystery element in relation to the killer and their motive, and the endlessly fascinating ways in which Argento dispatches his various victims. The style or Tenebrae is less over-the-top than some of his other films, particularly Suspiria and Deep Red, with the director here going for something that's rooted in a more obvious reality, which I suppose gives a more believable streak to the work of a director so rooted in visual and thematic abstraction.
The ending of the film is a satisfying one, with Argento literarily paining the walls red with blood, whilst offering a plausible and greatly rewarding climactic reveal that is sure to delight those familiar with his previous works. As an experiment in self-aware, self-reference, the film is more intelligent and certainly less smug than the blockbuster Scream films, whilst the whole film hinges around a famous quote from Conan Doyle - "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." - which adds yet another layer to the film, allowing the audience to go back and re-interpret the hints, ciphers and elements of self-reflection, bubbling away beneath the surface of lurid gore.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling effort, 4 Jun. 2003
By A Customer
'Tenebrae' is the story of Peter Neal, an American thriller author who is publicising his new novel in Rome. Being an Argento film, it's not long before somebody winds up dead. Mr Black Gloves is once again at work in Mondo Argento, this time accusing Neal of corrupting society through his books, and killing 'deviants'. By the time the last body hits the floor, the body count is well into double figures...
'Tenebrae' is visually stunning, with wonderful camera work (particularly just before the second death). Despite being very brightly lit, even during the night scenes, this is one of Argento's most traumatic films. The light is in stark contrast to the title of the film, and as the story goes on the deaths become more violent, the climax being far more bloody than anything in, say, 'Suspiria'. That said, as somebody who really cannot stand gore, I didn't find it too difficult to get through- it's surprising that it's been cut for so long, really.
It also includes classic Argento themes- black gloves, killer POVs, extreme close-ups of eyes, and the old favourite 'Witness who misinterprets what they've seen'. Anyone with an interest in Argento or giallos should see this without hesitation. (Anchor Bay DVD, not Nouveaux Pictures edition!) BUT, if you need an introduction to Argento, I recommend you start with something like 'Sleepless', 'Profondo Rosso' or 'Cat O'Nine Tails'. 'Tenebrae' works best when put within the context of a tradition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!, 3 July 2004
This is my favourite Argento film. It's a 'true' horror film not just a studio's way to make some quick money by throwing a couple of semi-famous teens together with no story and directed by a music video director. You have to be willing to take a lot in to truely understand and enjoy this film.
For those not familiar with Argento's work then I would describe this film as like 'Scream' only a lot gorier! I don't want to give away any of the plot as that would ruin the film for a first time viewer. I would recommend this film to any open-minded horror movie fan.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tenbrea what a great film, 15 Nov. 2004
By 
paul miles (wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
ive just watched the anchor bay uncut version of tenbrea on dvd. and right from start to end credits i was on the edge of my seat great film with loads of twists and turns and i part that made me jump was when the dog was barking when that woman tried climbing over the metal fence. dario argento is an exerlent director i hope they have a sequal to this film as its one of the best ive seen in ages.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red herrings, blood and tension in the superior shocker, 24 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Tenebrae [1982] [DVD] (DVD)
Fierce, stylish sex crimes are on the menu in this grisly, superbly shot film. It's got some great twists and several places where I jumped out of my skin. The violence is extreme and unpleasant, with a good deal of graphic (& in one place hilariously bad) effects. This is powerful stuff and viewing it is like watching a slasher film made by Hitchcock. A required taste but interesting viewing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tenebrae: A simple act of annihilation, 6 April 2015
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An American novelist arrives in Rome to promote his latest book, once there however several murders take place connected to him and or the book.

One of Dario Argento's more famous & one of his best pictures. The film contains some of Argento's best set pieces including- the pan shot of the house and the following deaths of the lesbian couple is outstanding and the climax is blood soaked enjoyable mayhem. Acting is much better than you might expect, Franciosa is superb as Neal, Gemma as Det. Germani is also great, but all the cast do a fine job, the music by Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli is one of Italian horrors best, the title track is excellent. Argento also builds the tension expertly, the before-mentioned pan shot over the house and then the deaths is a superbly crafted sequence, Maria's death scene is another brilliant sequence and the last 20mins are an exercise in how to craft a horror movie. The one issue with the picture is the plot, until the revelations at the end the story is a bit confusing to say the least, a lot is going on but not much makes sense until the latter part of the film (don't miss the car scene at the end), although subsequent watching of the picture are much better when you know what's really going on though.

One of the best films to appear on the video nasties list in the 80's, also one of the best Italian giallo/horror of the period, possibly (maybe about to be slaughtered here) Argento's last truly great film, well until 2014 at least. 4.5/5
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic from the king of the giallo, dario argento., 21 Feb. 2014
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Tenebre is about an American writer named Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) who wrote and published a very controversial horror/suspense novel titled Tenebre. His novels are very popular in Europe and while traveling with his agent Bullmer (John Saxton) and his assistant Anne (Daria Nicolodi) on his book tour. He finds himself in the middle of an investigation involving a fan of his books, in which he gets a letter from the killer letting him know that his writings have inspired him/her to commit murder. Now, along with his friends and the police they must try to track down this killer before they kill again, while using notes from the novel to try and figure out the killers next move. But they soon find themselves as part of the killers game, where it seems that the book may not help.

This Dario Argento's bloody thriller is full of startling plot twists and shocking bursts of gory violence. Plenty of serious shocks and a wonderful musical score by Goblin as well as incredibly gory finale that is among Argento's greatest sequences. As usual, there are some stylish killings particularly a gruesome arm chopping near the end-definitely one of the bloodiest murder scenes I have ever seen. Argento also uses some of the most vivid colors imaginable and like his 1977 effort "Suspiria", he uses these colors to enhance the atmosphere of the film. This was definitely one of my favorite Argento films, as it was quite obvious that during this period Argento was at his peak creatively and as far as visual aesthetics, it by far beats out most of the films released in the early 80's.

Luciano Tovoli's camera-work/cinematography is brilliant, especially the luma crane shot (which goes up one side of a building, over the roof and down the other side in one unbroken take). There's also an extremely well-photographed and directed sequence featuring a girl being pursued by a rabid Doberman. Now they would do those two scenes with computers, and I think that obliterates the charm of the hands-on film-making process. Classy and exciting, this is Argento doing the murder mystery scenario at it's best. Full of interesting characters, plot twists and flashbacks, Tenebre is a treat for horror/thriller fans that will keep you going to the last frame of the film. Highly recommended.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen Anchor Bay makes Tenebre a pleasure to experience, capturing the film's color schemes and crisp photography. Finally presented in Anamorphic Widescreen in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the picture is bold and clean and vibrant. Extras are plentiful but all but one were taken from Anchor Bay's previous DVD release. "Commentary" with Argento and Claudio Simonetti is friendly and enthusiastic, followed by a Theatrical Trailer." Three "Making Of" features are included: "Voices of the Unsane," The Roving Camera Eye of Dario Argento," and "Creating the Sounds of Terror." Finally we have "Alternate End Credit Music" and a Dario Argento bio.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dude really goes thick with the Blood Canister, 26 Oct. 2007
By 
I notice that Argento is most often praised for his "set pieces," which are usually the suspense/murder sequences. I have to agree I enjoy these very much. He can be very slick. His movie "Tenebre" is actually fairly well constructed. It is about an American novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) who came to Rome to promote his book only to be mired in the tragic deaths of many beautiful women. Seemingly based on his recent novel the girls (and others) all die horrific deaths with Argento's arsenal of ways to kill pretty Italian girls. Three very memorable scenes in this movie to my mind, and a recurring theme of deep human despair which I have found in his movies so far. Two scenes here which specifically communicate this sense of futility. The first of which involves eight or maybe nine if you go back all the way to the introduction of the minor character involved turns of fate in a lengthy and relentless sequence characteristic of Argento's films and for which I can see why he is sometimes compared to Hitchcock (though is it appropriate to do so???). It is a turning point in the film. I am reminded of the scene with the pile of razor wire in "Suspiria". The other scene in "Tenebre" more graphically identifies that theme in the image of a character impaled on a polished piece of metal, trying to pull it out but his hands are too slippery with blood to grip the object.

Stylistically speaking the movie departs from garish and moody lighting of "Suspiria" for a more frontal, "realistic" look. If that hallucinogenic quality is the only thing a person liked about those movies. Interestingly enough, people complain that it looks like a TV show and the commentary notes that Argento was looking into the lighting of American television police drama to incorporate into this film. Don't mistake, color is still important. You will notice there is a lot of white so that when someone gets killed.... The other Argento trademarks are here, and effectively so. Camera movement, cutting, and soundtrack are still extremely important. The soundtrack is by three of the members of Goblin and, while of course sounding dated, fits very well, especially in one scene where you hear probably the whole main theme played over the duration of a long elaborate crane shot. I'm still amazed that in a movie where sound is so important I am able to forgive mediocre dubbing.

If you ever find yourself trying to argue that Argento isn't a misogynistic film director, make sure you try and sway the conversation away from this film. The vast majority of sick violence is directed at the fairer sex, but never mind! The murders are typically well orchestrated, and it is obvious which part of his film that Argento values the most. I see that's part of reason why many respect this guy so much - he gives horror fans exactly what they want.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Argento �touch�., 15 Oct. 2004
This DVD is the full uncut version (though to be honest I've seen a lot worse gore in mainstream films today that have blithely floated past the censors).
This was made in 1982 and although it displays similarities to Argento's earlier triumphs it doesn't seem as compelling or experimental as Profondo Rosso or Suspiria. It doesn't seem to have that same quirkiness or genuine oddness either.
Having said that it DOES have the same beautiful high panning shots, creeping over the outside looking in and of course it has the 1st person killer point-of-view shots complete with heavy breathing. There's a great sequence in a plaza with John Saxon too as he waits for someone he watches the world go by.....
The music is 100% synthesiser based (very 80's) and is from ¾ of 'Goblin' (who collaborated on other Argento classics). I found the effect not as creepy as on other films but that didn't stop me from humming the refrain for ages after.........
The action starts abruptly enough with the bumping off of some low-lifes in an appropriate manner. There's a fair number of red herrings as things go along - the story gets more gripping as the story pans out.
But in the end it's a straightforward slasher with a shock ending. If it wasn't for the Argento 'touch' how different would this be from a lot of others in the genre?
Speaking of the 'touch', I did like the sculpture bit at the end - very creative and immensely cruel.
Also, the DVD extras make this a great package for your collection.......
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcockian thriller, or self-reflexive experiment?, 17 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Tenebrae [1982] [DVD] (DVD)
Argento's best films appeal to the audience's love of the 'whodunit' genre. Even when you strip away all the other factors that often draw people to his work - whether it's the torrents of gore, the sumptuous use of photography, or merely the camp value of some of the performances - it's the overall plot (and the set-pieces that punctuate it) that really grabs our attention, and rewards our patients with a blistering, head-scratching, climax. For me, there's simply nothing better than immersing yourself in a story that offers clues and characters that seemingly point to one thing, but, with the writer and director simultaneously offering the viewer enough twists and turns to throw us off the scent, and keep us guessing, right the way through to the end.

Argento's best film, in my opinion, is Deep Red, because it is there that Argento finds the perfect balance between detective fiction, Hitchcockian suspense, and the lurid, over-the-top gore of the Italian Giallo series. Tenebrae continues the formula developed in Deep Red - as well as other classic Argento, like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and The Cat O' Nine Tails - but also adds a strong element of self-referential, self-reflexivity. Argento had always thrived on alluding back to his earlier work... I mean, look at the references to The Bird With the Crystal Plumage in Deep Red, or the continuation between Suspiria and Inferno. Here however, it's not enough for the director to give us a lengthy set-piece involving a crazed dog that seems to want to reference the death of the blind man in Suspiria, or the lingering shots of the killer's leather gloves (an Argento trademark), we instead have a director who is using the script to not only deconstruct his own image and persona, but also, to deconstruct the film it's self.

So, Tenebrae is a thriller about a writer of thrillers who, whilst on a promotional tour in Italy for his new book (...also called Tenebrae), finds himself the focus of a deranged serial killer, who is offing his victims according to the grisly murders found in the very same author's work. This gives Argento the storyteller the excuse to comment on the notion of storytelling, and even in two scenes, answer his own critics through the opinion of his central character. Of course, the film doesn't necessarily have to be enjoyed as a self-reflexive experiment (though it's probably best if you do), with Argento also having a great deal of fun in devising these bizarre scenes and scenarios, whilst simultaneously orchestrating this grandiose, gore-filled Giallo with a bold approach to cinematography, montage and music.

Like Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Deep Red, the besieged author is forced to turn amateur sleuth in order to catch the killer before the killer gets to him. What makes Tenebrae a little more interesting however, is that aforementioned streak of self-reflection and a major twist on perspective that easily rivals the great revelation towards the end of Deep Red, with Argento once again playing with the notions of subjective memory, perspective, and the idea of sight and sightlessness. The detective story central to the plot is as enjoyable as those found in other Argento works of the same era, whilst there's some extraordinarily inventive murder scenes, brilliantly photographed within the broad-light of day to go against the usually dark or nocturnal settings associated with this genre. One of the film's most talked about death scene involves a lengthy crane shot from the killer's perspective that runs right the way across the roof of the house, stopping only momentarily to glance back and forth through the various windows, before slipping in through one of the skylights. There's also the great scene when the author and his young assistant keep watch on a possible suspect, only for that very same suspect to later turn up with an axe through the head.

However, for those watching the film to enjoy the subtle plotting and self-aware construction of the script, there's a number of amazing discussions scenes between the author and the requisite chief-of-police, who discuss the literary crime classics in relation to pulp horror, whilst also adding a further dimension to an already multi-faceted film. For example; there's a scene in which the author is questioned about his book's sexism and the idea of a character being a 'social deviant' (the in-film-journalist's description of one of the book's homosexual characters) are both criticisms thrown at Argento's work, whilst in a later scene, the detective tells the author that he guessed the killer's identity on page 30... a subtle allusion to the twists and turns scattered throughout Tenebrae it's self.

As with a lot of Argento's work, the performances aren't all peerless, a fact not helped by the Italian's insistence on dubbing their work in post-production, although, that said, there's some admirable moments, particularly from Anthony Franciosa as the author, Peter Neal, Argento's former muse Daria Nicolodi as his assistant Ann, and b-movie stalwart John Saxon as Neal's publisher, who may, or may not, be a part of the whole conspiracy. Of course, at the end of the day, the film is all about the writhing narrative, the mystery element in relation to the killer and their motive, and the endlessly fascinating ways in which Argento dispatches his various victims. The style or Tenebrae is less over-the-top than some of his other films, particularly Suspiria and Deep Red, with the director here going for something that's rooted in a more obvious reality, which I suppose gives a more believable streak to the work of a director so rooted in visual and thematic abstraction.

The ending of the film is a satisfying one, with Argento literarily paining the walls red with blood, whilst offering a plausible and greatly rewarding climactic reveal that is sure to delight those familiar with his previous works. As an experiment in self-aware, self-reference, the film is more intelligent and certainly less smug than the blockbuster Scream films, whilst the whole film hinges around a famous quote from Conan Doyle - "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." - which adds yet another layer to the film, allowing the audience to go back and re-interpret the hints, ciphers and elements of self-reflection, bubbling away beneath the surface of lurid gore.
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