3 Dario Argento Movies to watch that aren’t ‘Dracula’
I don’t know about y’all, but when I heard that Dario Argento was directing Dracula, my heart felt like someone speared it with a love-covered shard of glass (aka, I was elated). I waited with click-ready fingers, jonesing to tap over to a review of the film. The review was negative. “A fluke!,” I said. And then all the other negative reviews started rolling in. Needless to say, I was sad that day.
Now, although Argento recently pushed out a real crapper of a film, that doesn’t mean all his other, wonderful work is sullied. No, sir! So, for just a little while, let’s imagine a world where Argento’s Dracula doesn’t exist. Let’s recount a few of his better films. (Or at the very least, the films I choose to mark as his absolute best.)
Similar to any other self-respecting horror feminist, this was my first Argento movie. Ah, memories. Confusing, beautiful memories. Suspiria follows Susan, a young American dance student, as she begins study at a top-notch European dance school. Upon her arrival, strange and terrible things start to happen at the school, and many of the students at the academy (along with some of the school’s workforce) begin to meet untimely, horrific demises. (Seriously, someone is killed with a sheet of glass. It’s so not pretty that it’s pretty.)
While Suspiria likely resides at the top of most Argento aficionados’ lists, it’s a classic for a reason. The film itself is absolutely gorgeous. The female friend/enemy relationships are spot on. Also: Susan is an incredibly strong character. True, she has many weak girl moments, but she’s the only person at the school who has the ovaries to actually unearth the truth behind the strange happenings.
This is, by far, my favorite Argento yarn. Phenomena follows Jennifer, a student, who arrives at a Swiss boarding school around the time that multiple brutal murders start to happen. Whilst Jennifer is studying in the musty school, she discovers that she has a strange power: the ability to communicate with insects. Luckily, the student meets an entomologist who has a hunch that her “ability” will allow her to communicate with the bugs present at each crime scene. The doctor and the student team to find the murderer, but eventually, Jennifer is separated from her mentor, and she must vie by herself. While Phenomena’s ending is similar to many of his other works because it’s filled with lots of fun twists, this film’s ending is one of Argento’s most climatic.
This film has a lot of snappy dialogue and the relationship between Jennifer and the doctor is quite lovely. This film also stars a rather charming monkey who is trained to help the doctor get around (the man resides in a wheelchair). Now, I normally hate monkeys. I find them repulsive and creepy (thanks, Monkey Shines). But this monkey? I’d let this monkey be my bro, for sure.
This film surprisingly doesn’t follow what I’ve come to define as the “Argento Formula:” Young, pretty, American brunette + death by glass = masterpiece. Tenebre follows Peter Neal, a male (gasp), American mystery writer, as he embarks on a book tour in Rome. Once Neal lands, a series of nasty murders miming the murders the author has depicted in his book begin to occur. Neal is deeply bothered that beautiful, young women are dropping like flies all over the city. So, he enlists the sleuth-like help of his publicist and his ex-girl. The unlikely trio begins to investigate the murders on their own, but always end up a few steps behind the killer. (Yet, they are always a few leaps ahead of the police – go figure.)
Tenebre is filled with many twists and does an amazing job of keeping the audience on their toes (even if it’s pretty obvious who the murderer is). Other things that make Tenebre a blast include the following: Multiple drunken nipple slips; a stellar soundtrack scored by Goblin, and a whispering, fiend-ish murderer that gets his jollies by wearing black gloved and tearing pages out of books.
What are your favorite Argento films? Do you think my choices are terrible? Tell me!