While doing a book tour, a writer is stalked and people in his entourage and others are murdered by a serial killer who shows a connection to his latest book.
Written and directed by Dario Argento, Tenebrae is viewed by many horror fans as one of the stronger offerings from the director. This one mixed Italian and American sensibilities, cast, and language which leads to the film having 2 different tracks for language here, one in Italian with English sub-titles and one in English. Considering the film costars John Saxon, the version reviewed here is the English language one to get his familiar voice. The film here is very dated and in terms of judging it or reviewing it, current standards are difficult to apply. The film is, however, a good example of the early 1980s and of Argento’s work that has established him as a master of horror. The man shows here a knowledge for suspense and shock, a masterful grasp of how to mix the two without going full blown overboard. In terms of that, there are some parts in this film that have not aged well and do feel like they are a bit too much and a bit overboard indeed. However, a rewatch with keeping in mind that the film is from 1982 can easily lead to a view of the work as a solid outing for the writer-director, one of his strongest in fact.
The cast here gives good performances that are of course dated these days, but still fun to watch. Seeing John Saxon in this, post-Black Christmas but pre-A Nightmare on Elm Street, is fun to see and definitely entertains with his take on the character at hand. The lead is, however, Anthony Franciosa who is good, but feels like a lesser performance next to Saxon. Franciosa does get more run time and much more to do here and he handles the majority quite well. In terms of the rest of the cast, most of them are present to be part of the victims or bring in some detail about the story to advance the film or throw off the viewer as to who the killer is. This is one of those films that has a few red herrings, misdirection, and a slew of things that feel nonsensical at first watch.
The film is a classic and one more than worth watching. It’s a solid giallo entry by a master that helps shows why Argento is considered as such. The new release by Arrow Video contains both the 4K Ultra HD transfer as well as a Blu Ray version of the film, both looking more than decent with lossless mono tracks in both Italian and English. The Italian version has English sub-titles while the English version has closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. When it comes to the actual extras, there’s the classic and expected image gallery, the Japanese theatrical trailer (fun one to check out), Unsane end credit sequence, an alternate opening sequence, an archival interview with Argento and an archival interview with Claudio Simonetti which may be the main attraction here along with the interview with Daria Nicolodi and the Voices of the Unsane featurette which has the same folks as well as Eva Robins, Luciano Tovoli, and Lamberto Bava. These are the ones to look for first for most horror fans as they are the best part of this set. The documentary on giallo films called Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo is a must-see here as well. For those who love a good audio commentary, this release contains three of them, however none include folks who have worked on the film unfortunately, but not completely unexpectedly.
The film is being re-released by Synapse Films on 9/26/2023.