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Tenebrae

Tenebrae

By Patrick Samuel • June 24th, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
TENEBRAE (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video 

Release date: June 27th 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 101 minutes
Year of production: 1982

Directors: Dario Argento

Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, Veronica Lauria, Veronica Lario

Like Bernardo Bertolucci before him who was associated with Neorealist cinema and Sergio Leone with the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1970’s, Dario Argento rose to become one of Italy’s most prominent directors with the sub genre known as Giallo.

It’s a hybrid of body horror and psychological horror characterised by excessive bloodshed, highly stylish camerawork and electronic musical arrangements with classical gothic elements.

Tenebrae

With his previous films Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) diving into the supernatural, the director returned to the crime mystery format of storytelling with Tenebrae, a tense thriller with a serial killer on the loose in Rome.

Its story begins with a writer, Peter Neil (Anthony Franciosa), leaving for Rome on a book tour, but as soon as he arrives a string of murders kick off and it seems like a killer is copycatting the events depicted in his latest novel, Tenebrae.

Neal’s book tells of the effects of deviant behaviour on society with a crazed killer going after those he considers “filthy, slimy perverts”. In the film, the killer’s victims include a promiscuous shoplifter who promises a store manager sex in return for letting her go, a lesbian journalist and her bisexual partner.

Tenebrae

Later on the killer’s choice of weapon changes from a razor to a much more effective axe and he/she becomes less discriminating in their choice of victims.

As the police rely on Neal’s help in catching the killer, we’re left to guess the identity and there are lots of suspects to choose from including a television interviewer, Christiano (John Steiner), with a strict catholic background, Neal’s agent, Bullmer (John Saxon) and the ex-wife Jane (Veronica Lario).

Tenebrae

Tenebrae, like with many of the films from the Giallo genre, relies on the sexual objectification of the female form while at the same time dismembering it to a pulsing electronic score, created here by Italian rock band Goblin. It’s a distinctive sound which utilises synthesisers and organs and serves well to heighten tension, expectation and overall enjoyment despite a plot which I found flawed and lacking logic at times.

There’s a good support cast with Daria Nicolodi playing Anne, Neal’s likeable and trustworthy assistant and John Saxon demonstrates very well how to wear a hat in his role as the helpful agent.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Introduction by Daria Nicolodi
  • Audio commentary with Kim Newman, Alan Jones and Thomas Rostock
  • Screaming Queen! – Daria Nicolodi remembers Tenebrae
  • The Unsane World of Tenebrae – an interview with Dario Argento
  • A Composition for Carnage – Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae
  • Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches

Like with so many of the films the UK placed on their Video Nasties list and banned under the Video Recordings Act 1984, looking at Tenebrae now it all appears quite tame compared to the level of gore, brutality and flesh we’re exposed to today.

That being said, it does have a certain nostalgic charm. Whether it’s seeing people smoking inside airport terminals, hearing blatantly sexist remarks or a two and a half minute tracking shot of with nothing happening on a roof, Tenebrae is a reminder of a time gone but its shadow still remains.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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