Tenebrae is one of Dario Argento’s most popular films. The 1982 release is notable for its eerie tone and very gory kills. Those qualities come off particularly strong in Synapse Films’ new 4K Ultra HD release. That new presentation, combined with copious high-quality supplementary features, makes this a must-buy for fans of giallo.
Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is a popular mystery writer in Rome to promote his newest book. As soon as he arrives, a woman is brutally murdered with a straight razor. Pages from Neal’s book were shoved into her mouth. Police look into the situation, but the author does some of his own investigating with the help of his assistant Anne (Daria Nicolodi). A series of additional murders takes place, complicating matters.
Tenebrae is filled with the kind of stylized violence Argento is known for. Bold use of red is pervasive in the film, in everything from a pair of women’s shoes to the copious amounts of blood. Arguably the movie’s most famous scene finds a woman’s arm being chopped off, with blood gushing across a wall as she falls over. It’s more than generic splatter. The director puts great care into how he stages the violence, heightening it as far as possible. He truly is a master of beautifully macabre violence.
The story has lots of twists and turns, keeping you guessing as to who the killer is. Argento uses those plot developments to further the idea that Neal is driven to discover why his work is connected to the murders. Without ever beating the audience over the head with it, the movie touches on the turmoil that would come from an artist knowing their work was somehow part of a killer’s plan.
An evocative synth score further heightens the mood. Tenebrae also has a lot of nudity, giving it a hint of eroticism that accentuates the danger. No one makes movies quite like Dario Argento. They have an ambiance all their own. Viewers who cherish his work will absolutely want to add this Blu-ray to their collection. For newcomers, it marks an accessible entry point into the director’s filmography. The mystery is compelling, the horror is effective, and the visual style is captivating.
Synapse Films has assembled an outstanding collection of supplementary material for this release, starting with audio commentaries from critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman, Argento expert Thomas Rostock, and author Maitland McDonagh. After that, you’ll find the following:
Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo - An informative and entertaining 90-minute documentary that delves into the history of Italian horror. The characteristics of the genre are explored in detail, and the interview subjects offer valuable insight. Watching it is guaranteed to make you want to see more giallo.
Being the Villain is a newly edited archival interview with actor John Steiner, who plays a key role in Tenebrae. He discusses his character and the approach he took to playing the part.
Out of the Shadows is a video interview with McDonagh, who wrote a book called “Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento.” As an expert on the director, she has plenty of useful thoughts about his career.
Voices of the Unsane is an archival featurette that contains interviews with Argento, actresses Daria Nicolodi and Eva Robins, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, composer Claudio Simonetti, and assistant director Lamberto Bava. With that line-up, you obviously get a lot of fantastic perspectives on the making of Tenebrae.
The same goes for the solo archival interviews with Nicolodi, Argento, and Simonetti that are additionally included on the disc. Nicolodi also provides an archival introduction. The set rounds out with theatrical trailers, an alternate opening credits sequence, and the end credits sequence from Unsane, which is the title Tenebrae was released under in the U.S.
The 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray combo is jam-packed with awesome extras, and the picture and sound quality in 4K is superb. To purchase a copy from Amazon, click here.
Tenebrae is rated R for bloody violence, strong language, and nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 41 minutes.