MAY 4, 2008
Enough of this thriller shit... tomorrow’s movie better be about monsters killing people in incredibly graphic ways. After the very “light on horror” Burbs and Godsend, I was looking for something more traditional. Thankfully, Anchor Bay answered the call, sending me the new Dario Argento Box set yesterday, which features two films already reviewed on HMAD (Trauma and Tenebrae), one I haven’t seen since I was a kid (Phenomena), and two I haven’t seen at all. One is The Card Player, and it better be more of a horror movie than Do You Like Hitchcock? (aka Ti Piace Hitchcock?), which features three kills in the entire film, and one is a goddamn chicken (and another is just a dude accidentally being hit by a car). If I have to stretch the criteria for what is and what isn’t a horror film for a goddamn Dario Argento movie, there’s something wrong!
It’s not a bad film at least (miles better than Phantom of the Opera, which was the most recent of his films that I had seen prior to this, and so bad I almost decided to never watch another of his recent films). In fact, considering it was a TV movie, it’s actually pretty solid, if not exactly top notch Argento. Also, on that note – what the hell kind of television does Italy have? This “TV movie” has a very graphic kill, rampant nudity and profanity, suggested incest, etc.... so really, saying “it’s good for a TV movie” is sort of giving it too much credit, since the medium obviously doesn’t have the same limitations that US television does. Also, it’s shot on video, which is a bummer no matter what medium/country you are working in, and even moreso when the film is directed by one of the most visually creative horror directors of all time.
None of the video looked really bad though, and in fact on a technical level, other than an odd glitch during the opening credits (why are they windowboxed?) it’s a perfectly good and professional looking film. But I expect nothing less from Dario.
What DID bug me was the setup of the video store that serves as the jumping point for several of the film’s plotlines. I spotted Green Mile filed along with several Hitchcock thrillers, and Mission Impossible 2 next to The Exorcist. Who the fuck alphabetized and categorized this place? There were other errors as well, not to mention a baffling amount of promotion for The Card Player (it’s almost as if the film was mocking me for not watching that instead).
And on that note, our protagonist is a pretty awful film student. He talks like your typical movie nerd guy, but then we see him watching Nosferatu on his widescreen TV, and he has the film stretched horizontally rather than at the correct square ratio. You fucking jerk! Look, no one likes to watch 4:3 movies on their nice 16:9 TV, but for Christ’s sake, don’t stretch out the image to make up for it! The movie looks like shit when you do that! Some fucking film student; he woulda gotten his ass kicked at my school.
As for the movie itself? It’s an interesting concept, but not enough is done with it. For some reason I was under the impression that the film concerned a serial killer who was killing people in Hitchcock homages (so like, he would kill someone in the shower, and throw a guy off Mt. Rushmore, or whatever). But instead it’s basically just a Strangers On A Train/Rear Window hybrid, with a bit of Dial M For Murder (and an affectionate mother that I guess is supposed to evoke Psycho, or at least Psycho IV), with our hero thinking that the femme fatale is copying the films on purpose. The film’s final scene is fascinating, as he realizes a pretty awful fact about himself; but that should have been the focus of the film, not a mini “twist” at the end.
Still, mediocre Argento is better than the best work of many others, and it’s certainly an entertaining piece. The Rear Window-esque finale is pretty suspenseful, and the hero’s never-fully explained flashbacks/dreams about two witches in the woods are vintage Dario. The box set is reasonably priced – just consider the film a bonus disc and you’re pretty much guaranteed an entertaining watch.
However, unless you speak Italian, don’t bother with the making of piece – it’s in Italian without subtitles. It’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on, but since these things are sort of worthless to begin with (there are no interviews included within) it’s even less appealing when you can’t really understand exactly WHAT boring things they are saying.
What say you?