Day 17 of 31
Director : Dario Argento
Starring : Macha Meril David Hemmings Daria Nicolodi Gabriele Lavia Giuliana Calandra Glauco Mauri Clara Calamai Piero Mazzinghi. Italy. 1h 46m.
Giallo films are one of the more iconic and unusual forms of horror, terror and suspense, a genre that’s easy to define but not very easy to predict, when I was first introduced to the eccentric brand of Italian slasher, in the weekend marathon I pretty much watched all the biggest names from Dario Argento and Lucio Fulchi. But only a few stood out, this was an instant favourite, not only because of the extensive nightmarish story, but the variety of violence that everyone can identify with.
Beginning with a eerie christmas scene where two shadowy figures fight until one is stabbed and a child’s cream is heard. The rest of the movie is much less festive and follows the a jazz pianist/tutor Marcus Daly (Hemmings) as he investigates the violent murder of a psychic Helga Ulmann (Meril), who was slaughtered as she almost pinpointed a murderer in her audience earlier in evening, as Daly was the one to witness the murder he feels inclined to help and is aided by a stunning and ambitious reporter Gianna Brezzi (Nicolodi). As the investigation progresses Daly begins to fathom just how insane and violent this deranged killer is and they stop at nothing to cover their tracks. New characters are introduced as quickly as they are bumped off in barbaric ways, but unlike other slashers these murders are all homespun, there is a bit of cleaver action.
Overall the film is quite slick and with the added harsh soundtrack from Goblin it has this heavy slahserific feel to it throughout. While it harnesses all the surreal aspects of a Argento styled Giallo film, an american in Italy who stumbles on a deranged killer and risks life and limb to bring this nutter to justice, the beautiful stunning sidekick in a lavish cast of other stunning girls it’s only a few subtle differences that really elevates this above other Giallo films, is the dynamics between the awesome crime sleuthing duo, the pair feed off each other and add a slice of comedic wit to what is otherwise a broody slasher.
The pace is incredibly fast and the murders are very cloak and dagger, a gloved hand appears from nowhere and some unsuspecting damsel is boiled in a bath or hacked to pieces. Hemmings is an absolute gem who manages to keep a straight face while conducting some of the most hilarious scenes, and who genuinely captures the determination and fear of his character. By his side at all times, if he likes it or not is the happy Girl Friday Gianna whose ideas are always as fresh as her face, and you can tell Argento was deeply in adoration of her.
With an atmosphere that cuts the night, the camera roams freely zooming in on dripping sweat, dilated eyes, water filled mouths and flashing blades, each murder scene is picked at by the zooming lense and the extended episodes are truly uncompromising, the audience has less chance to look away as the victim, but it’s always been Argento’s desire to make us look; hence Opera (1987).
The tinkling fairytale soundtrack laced with powerful guitars and lullaby singing from the epic Goblin really invigorate the oddball additions including a freaky doll that creeps in mid film. The static background jumps to life through dramatic camera work, statutes seem to appear from nowhere and paintings seem to jump from the walls, it’s constantly unnerving and had a lot of action that will keep you on your toes as you try to decipher this complex story.
Undoubtedly one of Argento’s most brilliant creations it really cannot be missed and for me it endlessly amazes and thrills.
R – Opera (1987)
L – A-Z of Giallo,
5s – Dario Argento, David Hemmings