30 Years On: Tenebrae Revisited

Now regarded as one of Dario Argento’s most accomplished films, Tenebrae was originally met with venomous hostility upon its release in the UK. It found itself heavily edited, prosecuted, banned and relegated to the 'video nasty' list. The twisted tale of an American mystery thriller novelist who becomes caught up in a slew of sadistic murders, seemingly inspired by his latest book, the film was Argento's return to the giallo after the excessive gothic horrors of Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980).

Head over to The Quietus to read my retrospective on the film, in which I discuss its origins, its initial reception and critical mauling, and how it has been subsequently revaluated as a self-reflexive commentary on not only Argento’s own body of work and the conventions of the Italian giallo, but on the alleged effects of violent entertainment on audiences.

Happy Halloween! 


Erich Kuersten said…
THank you for bringing this up and your cogent review of Tenebre, I had no idea it was the film's 30th anniversary when I watched it yesterday - I was just compelled, and also working on a book review (McDonagh's, which you mention)... and THEN there was a mention of the word tenebre in a TV show on right afterwards, by pure chance, which was playing History channel's Gods and Monsters and just happend to be on. I'm not insane I'm telling you! The flood, Tony Fransciosa biking to JFK, the looming apocalypse, it's all speeding through the Helmut Newton Eyes of Laura Mars like a razor wire needle through the eye of a screaming hot camel! Matrum Tenebrous orom!
James Gracey said…
Ha! Some wonderful coincidences in your day - how very serendipitous! The piece was a lot of fun to write - Tenebrae is one of those films that reveals something new every time you watch it. Best wishes for your book review - are you posting it online somewhere?
psynno said…
This is a brilliant job on Tenebrae, James. I had no idea that it was tougher to shoot than Suspiria for the cinematographer. The overall feel, use of modern locations and high-key lighting reminded me of Clockwork Orange when i first saw it. It annoys me that such an effective horror film should be banned and censored so heavily. I often wonder what Argento's films would be like if he only murdered men and ugly women,off camera.
James Gracey said…
Thanks! I completely agree - this is one of Argento's best films; and a damn good thriller. So annoying how it was treated upon release; though I'm sure these days the Video Nasty rep it has garnered has helped draw attention to it.

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