Dark Glasses (2022)

SEPTEMBER 30, 2022


After Opera, the output of Dario Argento became... let’s just say "spotty" and kindly leave it at that. But it also saw him largely working away from the straightforward giallo type fare that put him on our radars all those years ago, so it was exciting to hear that Dark Glasses (Italian: Occhiali neri) was a back to basics attempt, with no supernatural elements whatsoever. Plus, after a few projects have fallen apart over the past decade, it’s just nice to have ANY new Argento fare, as this is his first film since Dracula 3D all the way back in 2012. The only Master of Horror who is still around that’s made us wait longer is John Carpenter, who isn’t exactly trying to do anything else anyway.

Well I wouldn’t say it was worth the wait, but it’s certainly an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes, which is all I can ask of a guy in his eighties stepping back into the ring after such a long absence. The plot is vintage giallo: a woman named Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) is blinded after a car accident, and as she tries to readjust to life she realizes that she is still being followed by the serial killer who caused the accident in the first place. And that’s basically it; given the title (which refers to not only her post-accident reliance on sunglasses, but also the ones you use to watch an eclipse unless you’re a hapless moron) I thought there might be some psychic vision or the reveal that the killer was also blind or something, but nah – it’s actually so simple that it almost becomes weightless.

For starters, the killer reveal is a total nothingburger; the movie only has one suspect of note and he’s barely in it anyway. It’s one of those movies where a character needs to say something awkward just to help the audience remember who he was in case they had forgotten, which believe it or not is less preferable than the type where the killer wasn't even in it at all (like the OG Friday the 13th, for example). There’s also almost no police involvement; a pair of cops who do some routine investigation stuff pop up early on, but they are basically phased out of the movie after (spoiler) some other cops are killed, which is odd – wouldn’t that intensify their actions? And there aren’t even a lot of death scenes for Argento to do his thing; a gory throat slashing in its opening minutes seems to be him announcing “I’m back, baby!” but after that there’s relatively little violence at all.

Instead, it’s a surprisingly character driven thriller, focusing on Diana as well as Chin, a young boy who was orphaned in the car accident. Feeling somewhat guilty (she was fleeing the killer and rammed into Chin’s parents’ car) she visits him at the orphanage and tries to make amends by giving him a video game, but as he is bullied there Chin decides she can make it up to him by letting him just stay with her. So the two of them, along with her recently acquired seeing eye dog, become a little makeshift family – and it’s super endearing! I can’t apply the word “sweet” to a lot of stuff in Argento’s movies, but it’s how I felt here – with the added bonus of giving me flashbacks to Cat O Nine Tails’ lovable Karl Malden character.

It’s also easy to like Diana. Unlike some other protagonists who lose a sense, she never seems too angry or stubborn about her predicament – she quickly puts all her effort into having the same life she did. Asia Argento (supposedly meant to play the lead at one point) plays a social worker of sorts who helps her get the dog, shows her how to use a cell phone for the blind, how to use the sounds of the crosswalk meters, etc – and Diana takes to it all eagerly and appreciatively, instead of being bratty and pulling those kind of “This is pointless, I WILL SEE AGAIN!” theatrics we’ve seen in other movies. And she remains somewhat vain about her appearance; at one point she loses her glasses and has Chin pick out a new pair, with the only instruction to make sure they are cute.

So it’s kind of a mixed bag; there’s nothing particularly BAD about the movie, but it’s also a little too straightforward for its own good. Throughout the film I kept thinking “OK yeah but there’s gonna be a weird left field turn right about...” only for that “now!” to never come. At one point Asia takes Diana to a retreat where some other blind folks are, and you’ll probably think that this will produce some suspense highlights (the killer making his way around people who can’t see him, perhaps) but nothing is really done with it. Maybe the budget got trimmed or something and they had to make concessions, but whatever the reason it just feels a bit too stripped down, without the weirdness and wacky plot points that made his “Animal Trilogy” (not to mention Deep Red) so memorable. There’s a scene where Diana and Chin are wading through a little pond and find themselves attacked by snakes – the movie needed more of that energy! But that said, it’s entertaining enough and far from being hateable, so the folks who called for his head (or at least retirement) after Mother of Tears and Dracula (neither of which I minded much, I should note) should be happy to know he’s still able to make something that, while slight, is worthy of his filmography.

What say you?


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