review for Tenebre on AllMovie

Tenebre (1982)
by Patrick Legare review

One of Dario Argento's best thrillers, this horror film has gone on to cult status due to its shocking, bloody style and twist-filled story. Available in America for many years in only a badly cut version titled Unsane, Tenebre tells the story of an American novelist (Anthony Franciosa) whose P.R. trip to Rome to promote his latest tome becomes tied to a series of slayings. The murders -- slashing, stabbing, axing, and strangling among them -- are extremely graphic, but are enacted in a stylish manner that makes them all the more disturbing. Such startling visuals are the film's finest point, and credit goes to both Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli for this aspect. One particularly strong shot has the killer putting out a bare light bulb by running a razor blade through it. Another great shot (later used on the U.S. video box cover) lingers on a murdered woman who is left with her head dangling through a shattered window pane. Most memorable is a sadistic flashback by the killer in which three youths hold him down while a woman forces her high heel into his mouth. The script is a simple murder-mystery that does a good job of throwing the audience off track and keeping things suspenseful as each potential suspect is knocked off. The film's final reel is easily one of the bloodiest ever made and features a couple of great surprises. Performances are generally dull, but they don't take much away from the film's horror impact. The unmistakable score was performed by members of the group Goblin, who performed under their last names due to legal issues.