Film / Tenebre

A 1982 Italian Horror film from master horror film maker Dario Argento. It stars Anthony Franciosa, Veronica Lario, John Saxon, and Daria Nicolodi.

The film was released in Italy and through most of Europe without any reported censorship problems, but was classified and banned as a Video Nasty in the United Kingdom. Its theatrical distribution in the United States was delayed until 1984, when it was released in a heavily censored version under the title Unsane.

Franciosa stars as Peter Neal, a American writer of violent mystery novels. In Italy to promote his latest work, he is accompanied by his literary agent Bullmer (Saxon) and his assistant Anne (Nicolodi). He is unaware that he is also being followed by his embittered ex-wife Jane (Veronica Lario).

Prior to Neal's arrival in Rome, a young woman is brutally slashed to death by an unseen killer. The murderer sends Neal a letter informing him that his books have inspired him to go on a killing spree. Neal is soon contacted by the police, who put Detective Giermani (Giuliano Gemma) in charge of the investigation.

While the killings continue, Neal notices that TV interviewer Christiano Berti (John Steiner) appears to have an unusually intense interest in the novelist's work.

Just when you think you know who the killer is, he is violently killed himself.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: In the end, Anne accidentally kills Neal when she pushes a statue and a sharp piece falls off, transfixing his chest and pinning him to the wall.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Maria is frightened by one. She then foolishly aggravates it further, providing a chase scene that leads her to the killer's basement.
  • An Axe to Grind: Primary tool for murder during the latter part of the film.
  • Ax-Crazy: Both Cristiano Berti and Peter Neal.
  • Big Bad: Subverted with the reporter Cristiano Berti, who indeed kills the first few victims but is killed by Peter Neal who then takes over as the Big Bad.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Cristiano Berti, who was indeed the murderer of the first few victims, but is killed off by Peter Neal, the actual Big Bad.
  • Decoy Protagonist: For initially most of the movie, the film follows Peter Neal, however, after Neal takes over as the Big Bad, the climax follows Anne instead.
  • Final Girl: Anne.
  • Gorn: It's Dario Argento. What do you expect?
  • Greater Scope Villain: Due to the revelation that Peter Neal was the killer for the later act and his literary work (which in turn inspired First Disc Final Boss Berti to go on a murder spree) stems from his Dark and Troubled Past as a teenager who killed a girl out of revenge for the humiliation he suffered, Neal act as this for Berti in the first half of the film.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens to the killer in the climax.
  • The Killer in Me: Peter Neal has always had repressed feelings of misogyny and violence. He attempts to exorcise them in his books. But once somebody starts killing due to his books, he loses any control he had, kills the actual killer and embarks on a spree of his own.
  • Metafictional Title: Tenebre is Neal's latest book.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The lesbian reporter Tilde's girlfriend, who is naked for almost entire duration of her role.
  • The Oner: The three minute shot that pans up and over Tilde's house.
  • The Quincy Punk: While waiting for Jane to have lunch with her, Bullmer notices two punks hanging around.
  • Reality Subtext: A feminist reporter lambastes Neal for his novels' focus on brutal violence against women, a criticism often leveled at Argento specifically and the giallo genre in general.
  • Red Herring: All male characters but particularly John Saxon who plays a sleazy agent. Subverted with Berti — he is the killer in the first few murders we see or hear about, but gets killed by Neal halfway through the film.
  • Slashed Throat: How the first victim dies.
  • The Alibi: Deliberately invoked by one of the killers. Neal uses Berti's killings, which happened before Neal came to Italy, to throw suspicion off himself as he plans the murders of Berti, his agent, his wife, and his secretary. He advises the police that, in his opinion, all of these killings are being committed by the same person — and since he wasn't in the country yet, that rules him out, right?
  • Twist Ending
  • Video Nasty
  • Villain Protagonist: Peter Neal.