Now i will be going out this evening to watch some (literally) scary music in the form of powernoise electronics and old school grindcore bands that will beat the shit out of each other. However there are some of you who, to be honest, will hate having to run the gauntlet of going out downtown tonight with drunken fools dressed up as sexy witches and Vampires. I don’t blame you either. where’s a flamethrower when you need one?
So for those who are staying in this evening by their PC’s i offer you a decent alternative with a few films by one of the best Horror directors around. Now we all know that Dario Argento is one of the masters of Horror, which makes it all the more sad that he seems a shadow of his former self nowadays (If you have seen his last two films, The Mother of Tears and Giallo, then you will know what i mean). And there are rather well founded criticisms that he is a rather misogynistic director (most of his women characters are ciphers who get horrifically murdered, the disembodied hand that often does the killing is often his own, he cast his ex-wife as a character that received a grisly death at his hands, etc).
But in a period from 1971 to 1987, he made some of the best stylised thrillers and Horrors that have often been imitated, rarely bettered. And from that period I’m choosing 3 films that will certainly get your heart rate moving along (note: i wasn’t able to find either Deep Red or Tenebrae on video on the internet so i’m giving the best of the rest)
First up is his 1985 film Phenomena starring Donald Pleasance and a young Jennifer Connelly. In this film Connelly is a girl who has a bizarre power to influence the behaviour of insects. At the same time, fellow students at the boarding school she studies at are meeting grisly ends at the hands of a deranged killer. With the help of Pleasance (as a wheelchair bound entomologist), she tries to find the identity of the killer.
While this film is not as tense as his previous film, Tenebrae, there are some scary scenes and very some inventive deaths abound. The film also contains two of the most “WTF???” film climax moments i have seen in a horror film. When you see them, you will be wondering what was going through Argentos head when he wrote the plot….
Next up is what i believe to be his last great film, 1987’s Terror at the Opera. Again like 85% of all his film plots this has a young girl being stalked by a deranged killer. This time it’s a young opera singer who gets her big chance after the lead singer is run over by a car. What makes this a little twisted is that the killer incapacitates her and tapes needles under her eyes, forcing her to watch while the killer kills her friends.
While plot wise, this film is no great shakes, i feel it represents a final stylistic flourish and inventiveness that Argento has had trouble recapturing since. Checkout the opening title sequence and the Door Peephole scenes for examples of this.
For my last film, I’m bringing out the Daddy! Yup, it’s his acknowledged classic, 1977’s Suspiria. You should know about the plot by now (young girl at another euro boarding school finds out that the schools is a cover for a powerful secret society of witches), but everything about the film is almost pitch perfect, from the use of strong primary colours in the set (using imbibition Technicolor processes), to the soundtrack provided by regular collaborators, Goblin. And it also contains one of the best death scenes in the history of Horror. Brilliant.
If you watch these, i guarantee that you will be having a rather unsettled nights sleep tonight….