Tenebre (Unsane) Reviews
I really loved this one, it's kind of up there with films of the same era like Deep Red and Suspiria as far as my top Argento titles would go.
A novelist finds himself embroiled in a series of brutal murders when he travels to Rome to promote his latest novel, and boy are you in for a ride.
Always see for your self!
"Tenebre," his return to the basic giallo stylizations after a nearly a decade away, is his most personal film - and I think it is among his best. It provides for one of his most cohesive storylines, some of his most inspired sequences of terror, and serves as a wondrous argument for his genius. It isn't just a whodunit in stalk-and-slash form; it is also a sleek, terrifically designed thriller of the De Palma form, erotically charged and endlessly gripping. While "Suspiria" and "Inferno," his excellent forays into the supernatural, are exceptionally frightening due to their nonsensicality and color, "Tenebre" is frightening because of its story, its obsessions, its close imitations of Argento's own life.
Argento's fictional counterpart in the film, Peter Neal, is portrayed Anthony Franciosa, an extraordinary popular crime author whose latest novel, "Tenebre," is earning him just as much acclaim as it is controversy. Fans are consumed with the book for its suspenseful atmosphere, its detractors concerned with Neal's infatuation with the killing of women. He is no misogynist, he casually replies to an inflammatory journalist accusing him of the personality - it is a work of fiction, not a representation of himself.
But fiction begins to metamorphosize into reality as violent murders, copies of Neal's works, start to take shape at a rapid, gruesome pace. The victims are found with pages of the novels stuffed in their mouths; photographs are taken of their corpses and kept as souvenirs. Neal is understandably traumatized, but as a novelist with an adventurous mind, he decides to take matters into his own hands and investigate the crimes for himself. The results, however, turn out to be much closer to home than he could ever imagine.
The parallels to Argento's personal life are so obvious in "Tenebre" that it is unthinkable not to praise him for putting so much of himself into a film so commercially adrenaline infused. Neal is faced with the exact same journalistic accusations Argento was targeted with at his prime; a deranged fan is the villain; the murdered are all given a three-dimensional shape that makes their deaths all the more tragic, unthinkable; Daria Nicolodi, playing Neal's assistant, was Argento's life partner at the time and shows a similar type of concern for the man that matters the most to her. The nakedness of its psychology is astonishing. Like Hitchcock, Argento can turn personal pricks and prods into thunderous art.
"Tenebre" is also Argento's most erotic film, with nudity and sexual identity acting as major characters in ways never before seen in his work. Perhaps it is a comment regarding his abnormal fascination with women, how he appreciates their form, their mystique, just as much as he is fascinated by the idea of their perfection being destroyed scrupulously out of the blue during their most ethereally attractive time. The way sadomasochism plays a part in the mentality of the killer is unsettlingly characterized.
But despite being a horror film of idiosyncratic intimacy, "Tenebre" is still an entertaining piece in line with the phenomenal stylistic aspects of "Psycho" and "Dressed to Kill." Some of Argento's most stunningly shot sequences infect its frames, including the aesthetically daring double murder of a judgmental journalist and her lover, and the nightmarish flashback deliriums that take us directly into the mind of the murderer.
More acclaim goes toward "Deep Red" and "Opera" in terms of Argento's oeuvre, but "Tenebre" is one of his greatest films, as thickly stylish as it is riskily personal. It serves as a reminder that no one does giallo quite like Argento - Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci were never more than placeholders.
fresh celluloid, a film like Tenebrae could come out. It
was the peak of his powers as a filmmaker, coming off of work like
Suspiria and Inferno, he decided to once again make a hardcore 'Giallo'
(Suspiria and Inferno diverge a bit, though still have the tropes). If
you look at it, the story isn't that so much different than other films
of his: a character, or a couple of them, our heroes, are in Rome or
Italy someplace and a killer-with-black-gloves (that's all we see,
naturally) is killing people, and the cops are on the case and the case
also involves these characters, and the hero/es try to figure out the
murders themselves - this despite how relentlessly grisly and gory they
can get. In this case in Tenebrae, the story surrounds a celebrated
author of horror-thriller books (Anthony Franciosa), who is in Rome to
promote his new book of the title, and murders are happening that are
connected with his material. At first he tries to ignore it, but gets
drawn in inexorably as does happen. But not all is what it seems.
Tenebrae - or "Unsane" as it was called for a while in the US - is
Argento going the route that sometimes creators of pulp like this went
into: think Stephen King with Misery, a story of an author who is
stalked by a fan, for example. But for Argento, the kills don't all
have to be people we've followed diligently throughout the film; indeed
the first person killed is just a would-be shop-lifter who wanted a
copy of the book in a store, and is stalked home and stabbed by the
killer (after an uncomfortable but sort of darkly funny scene with a
mangy old man trying to fondle her I guess), and the pages of the book
are crumpled in her mouth before the throat gets slit. Oh boy.
Or take the girl who we do get to know a bit and like, the daughter of
the manager at the hotel Peter Neal is staying at. In probably the most
intense and masterful sequence in the film, or at least one of them
(and, again, sometimes with dollops of absurd comedy), she gets in an
argument with the boy she went with for the day, is out by herself at
night, and a dog - a rotweiler of course - wants to attack her, jumps
over a high fence, and proceeds to chase her, occasionally bite her
(them she gets him away), and then runs some more. She then happens
upon the killer's domain - how she gets there and how she gets inside
is just one of those contrivances, go with it, it's a movie silly - and
then more stalking happens from there. The quality of horror is so high
and disturbing that it made me ask a frightening question of logic:
what happens to the dog after she goes inside the lair? We may never
Argento's only faults here, and they should be noted, are the
familiarity aspects - the scenes with the cop explaining things with
Peter Neal back and forth are alright, but he's just alright as an
actor, maybe near the end he tries more, he's there to give exposition
and figure things like a Detective Movie Character does - and just part
of the ending. I can't go into it without really spoiling things to
high heaven, however suffice it to say the killer is revealed (in some
part), and then it kind of feels disappointing as more exposition and
other things about the killer are revealed that we, as the audience,
already know and don't necessarily need to be shown twice.... but even
this is excusable, perhaps like the ending of Psycho, for suddenly how
twisted the final moments after this reveal turn things on their heads.
This is clearly a filmmaker having so much fun, and in LOVE with
It may not have always the same stylish tenor of Suspiria or Deep Red.
At the same time, there's rarely a moment I don't see Argento working
out psychological quandaries here and twisting them into trashy ways.
He's also making a very sexual film in many scenes - there's more
nudity than I can remember than from any of his films, and certainly
some buxom ladies at that, occasionally to comical lengths like with
the prostitute in the lesbian house - and there is one particular crane
shot that, arguably, shouldn't exist. This sequence could be told
without it, you might suggest. Hell with you, Argento says, and does it
HIS way, in a manner that is so elaborate that you can't help but be
with the movement of it, especially as Goblin, the director's preferred
and awesome devisers of the synth-macabre, make it even more epic.
This is a filmmaker who wants to REVEAL things is elaborate and twisted
ways, and when the violence really flows it can be shocking; one woman
is killed in such a way that isn't so much fun as disgusting, but it's
part of the point. Truffaut once said that he wanted to feel a
director's love or pain while watching a film, with little interest in
the in-between parts. Argento's on fire with Tenebrae, with his
thin-but-sometimes-bold characters, occasionally with flashbacks -
where Franciosa winds up shouldn't make sense, and at the same time
there is a demented logic to it that you can go with in this
filmmaker's hands - and his exquisite (yes, deliciously done) set
pieces. If you're going to put the audience through suspense, at least
know where to point and get the camera for maximum effectiveness.
Tenebrae is effective and cracked Italian Horror viewing, filled with ridiculous peril and the joy of terrifying an audience.