Tag Archives: horror film review

Opera (1987) AKA Terror at the Opera

aofa31days2016

Day 12 of 31

Director: Dario Argento.

Starring: Christina Marsillach, Daria Nicolodi, Urbano Barberini, Ian Charleson . Italy. 1h 47m

 

Slightly arthouse but very gothic, this epic giallo film from legend Dario Argento see a fusion of opera and slasher collide in this suspense filled macabre horror. Seemingly inspired by the tragic Macbeth, that is the exact plat which Betty, a stunning understudy is working on when she is stalked by a hooded sadistic killer whose main objective is to torture Betty by forcing her to watch him kill but how’s cunning managed to keep his anonymity. On the opening night of the Verdi Opera, a stage hand is killed and all of the ravens that were brought in for the tragic opera, but the curse of Macbeth lives on and Betty is soon on the run. As the film slowly progresses every new character is a potential killer and Betty soon realises she can trust no one, a bulk of the film is literally Betty randomly getting pounced on, then upon waking up in a bound/gagged situation and unable to look away as an innocent person is brutally slaughtered in an outlandish way.

There is a unique feel in this gothic art house giallo, it has the loud badly dubbed soundtrack like so many others but the killer toys with the victims in such a bizarre manner, being one of the few gialli that focuses more on the torture aspect than bizarre settings and a horrific murders.

Poor (not so ugly) Betty, grapples to find sanctuary from this nightmare, one of the more memorable scenes is when she’s getting fitted for a costume when she finds herself bound with tape placed on her face with needles poking up ensuring that she can’t avoid watching the tailor get brutalised,and then a impromptu autopsy is performed on her after she swallows the killers bracelet. Each attack is like a small drama stage play in itself, with the intense lighting and pounding music. The torture method was one conjured up by Argento himself when joking about people shying away from his murder scenes in the cinema, he threatened to tape pins under their eyes so they couldn’t look away and materialised the fascinating idea here.

Verdi’s opera is infamous for bringing bad luck but the aesthetics inspired Argento to be a little bit more experimental with the visuals, from the early scene filmed from the black reflection of a crow’s eye to the haunting dream sequences and flashbacks suffered by Betty. The varied and well executed effects and camera work pays off, everything about the film is about an voyeurism and being centre stage, and every element is arranged in such a way where it’s all very much centre stage and “look at me”, and Argento didn’t really need to force us to look at this marvel as his attempts to make it stunning have mesmerized fans for years.

After several grisly murders and lots of flashbacks there are two epic endings, one follows on nicely and the other hits you like a bat out of hell.. And shouldn’t be missed,

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Rating 8/10

 

 

R – Watch me when I kill, New York Ripper, Bird with Crystal Plumage
L – A-Z of Giallo, Italian Cinema, Crazy endings
A – My love affair with Giallo
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Regression (2015)

Regression

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A dark and dramatic build up to a not so impressive ending for this sprightly occult laced mystery. I could see a lot of outstanding horror connections and there is even a (slight) cameo from satanic black metal band Behemoth but ultimately in the end I just didn’t see the point but in it’s defense the film did give me ultimate motherfucker of all jump scares that I will never forget.

The movie starts with an energetic and passionate cop Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) on the hunt for justice after a young girl, Angela Gray (Emma Watson) has been sexually abused and is hiding from her family at a local church. After failing at all paths of investigation he attempts a new form of questioning involving Professor Kenneth Raines’s ( David Thewlis) regression method and through a form of hypnosis a satanic cult that has engulfed the town is slowly revealed. Based on real events this film does offer a lot of thrilling suspense and intrigue a few jumps and some psychological terror but wains when it comes to gore and horror.

The dark Se7en-esque atmosphere is enhanced by multiple rainy Minnesota night scenes and darkened barns (that happen to harbor a fucking hell beast), and a well crafted sinister soundtrack.

Everything about Alejandro Amenábar’s film casts doubt, it cultivates a culture of looking at small details and taking a side. What starts out as a run of the mill child abuse story suddenly becomes a dark bloody story about sacrificing babies and cult persecution. Kenner’s mental stability comes into question as he encounters many late night terrors as the satanic group single him out. He’s plagued by silent phone calls, intruders, strange dreams and becomes hyper paranoid as strangers stare at him everywhere he goes, is this an invitation or is he on a occult hit list?

Fast paced thrilling mystery film that uncovers a potential child killing satanic cult acting in a small Minnesota town..

The film is very much in two halves, the first is a gritty detective mystery, one lose cop is out to get his man, Kenner is determined, quick witted and in control, but nothing is adding up, eventually after some more interactions with Angela (Watson) and after the regression sessions with the sound minded Professor things start to skew and the lines get incredibly blurry, the occult gets heavily involved and Kenner is a fish out of water.

regressionHawke had to carry this movie, there are a few good actors backing him up like Dale Dickey who plays a strong religious grandmother Rose, and her son (father to Angela and first accused of her abuse) is played by the multi skilled Swedish/Danish actor Karl David Sebastian Dencik. There is a particularly dramatic scene where Rose is being accused of cult punishments and she starts protesting her innocence “I know who i am.. I know who I am” which was equal to the ending scenes of Angel Heart (1987) other similarities are various scenes from the Omen Series where creepy people are starring characters down in the street and weird red eyed animals turn up as in The Rite (2011) but this one feline in the barn scene scared the literal piss out of me.. so watch out for that.

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Overall I would have preferred a movie that had a lot more blood and guts, but that’s just how I roll. Yes there is a strong argument that it’s based on real events and doesn’t need the gore to make the film more horrific, and I appreciate what it is, I just found it more of a mystery than a horror. I found there were two main scares and one of them really was enough for an ailurophobe like myself.. thanks guys, but it doesn’t have the power it needed to really drive the “twist” at the end. Sadly it was let down by Emma Watson I found her character as as useful as Zhizhi Zhang in Horseman (2009) but she has no excuse because she can speak the language. It was great seeing Behemoth on a poster starring down Hawke in one of the later scenes, but I dunno if they were on tour in that area in the 90’s or not.. still it’s a nice touch.

 

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Rating 4/10

RThe Omen (1976), Angel Heart (1987), The Rite (2011),Horseman (2009)
L – Satanic films, Real Murder Mysteries
A – Why do satanist always wear robes in films AKA how satanism portrayed on film.
5B – Ethan Hawke, David Thewlis, Karl Dencik