In which giallo legend Dario Argento has been reduced to making mediocre thrillers for Italian TV.
When I was 18 years old, I saw Suspiria
late one night on the Sci-Fi channel. This was back in the day when the Sci-Fi channel showed actual quality films, as opposed to shit like Mansquito
. Suspiria changed my life. It is a true work of art, and the opening sequence has got to be one of the most beautifully elaborate death scenes in film history. Dario Argento has made many quality films that helped to define the horror genre. But in recent years, he's gone way downhill. Out of his last five films, four were complete crap. Not such a good track record.
Also, a couple of months ago M and I saw a TV show that had interviews with various Italian creative people. One was an architect, I think one was a fashion designer, and the third one was Dario Argento. As we're both avid Argento fans, we stayed up incredibly late to see his interview.
Friends, it was sad. More than sad, it was heartbreaking. Dario Argento is selling cheap-ass Halloween gadgets out of the basement of a record store. Not, like, replica props from famous films. Not, like, well-made costumes or masks or realistic skeletons. He is selling the kind of crap you'd buy at the Dollar Store. I am pretty sure he had several of those sorry Scream masks.
And he kept hitting on the poor woman who'd been sent to interview him. And when he wasn't flirting inappropriately with her or offering her discounts on his cheap-ass Halloween gadgets, he was saying things that made no sense. I'd forgotten this until a few days ago, when M reminded me. Instead of talking about his career as a horror auteur, he was babbling nonsense like "September is the time for eating ice cream!"
When I saw his new film Do You Like Hitchcock?
at the video store, I rented it with a degree of enthusiasm. I keep trying to convince myself that he can't suck forever, and that eventually he's bound to turn out another classic. Right? Right???
Wrong. At least, not this time. While Do You Like Hitchcock? wasn't crap, it wasn't very inventive either. This guy Giulio spies on a couple of psychotic lesbian witches (or something like that) when he's a kid. This turns into a lifelong obsession with voyeurism. He especially likes to spy on the slutty girl across the street.
Eventually the slutty girl's mom is murdered, and film buff Giulio decides that it had to have been a conspiracy. While spying on the slutty girl, he saw her bond with yet another slutty girl over the Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train. So obviously they've agreed to do each other's murdering. Or have they? We don't know!
Actually we do know. It's not all that difficult to figure out what's going on in this film. The plot twists are generally mundane, the kind of thing you've seen dozens of times before. There are no surprises here. All of the characters are completely transparent. So, while this was marginally entertaining, it was a pretty non-thrilling thriller.
Also, in what seems to be par for the course in a lot of giallo films, the Italian actors have been dubbed over by people with excruciatingly proper British accents. Yes, this is tacky. But it's also kind of fun. And you'll be hard pressed to find an Argento film (even the great ones) where the actors haven't been dubbed over by people with absurd accents. In fact I think I read once that sometimes the actors in his films don't even speak the same lanaguage as each other. So you could have someone speaking English and someone speaking Italian, and then they'd BOTH get dubbed over. It's a crazy world we live in. September is the time for eating ice cream...