AKA: Unsane, Tenebre
For Dario Argento, Tenebrae was a return to the 'Giallo'. Five years had passed since the release of Profondo Rosso, during this time he brought us the supernatural shock-vehicles:- Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980).

Like so many of Argento's films, Tenebrae revolves around a writer. He is Peter Neal (Franciosa), an American who writes violent suspense thrillers. Just before he arrives in Rome to promote the book, a beautiful women is killed, the pages of the book stuffed into her mouth. This is the first of many violent and brilliant set-peices of the film. The killer soon contacts Neal, claiming that he finds inspiration in his books.

Set in Rome, Tenebrae has a strange architectural landscape its imaginary geography is pieced together out of fragments of the city that most of us would be unfamiliar with. Ultra-modern decor fills the interiors of hard edged buildings and empty locations are present, this not being the image of Rome that most people are familiar with. The films imagery is shaped by the washed out stark lighting by Luciano Tovoli.

Incessantly sexualised and violent, the films strengths lie in the visuals, subtle colour shades and dreamy flashbacks... the killers identity seems to be connected in a series of sequences where a young man is seen to be humiliated by a beautiful young woman in harsh red shoes on a white beach, pastel blue ocean as a backdrop to the erotic and disturbing events taking place.

Argento as auteur is a wonderful place if you can only share this reality. With good performances from Franciosa, Saxon and most enjoyably John Steiner as the journalist Christano Berti, this is a deranged dream of a thriller where madness and irrationality form its inspiration.

The Region 1 DVD release has the full version, a relief after the film was cut and banned on video in some countries. At last we can enjoy the film the maestro himself approved.


A violent and wonderful slice of cult 80's Euro-horror. Essential!

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Dramatic, uncommercial Euro-horror!

Weaknesses? Too violent for many.

Our rating: 8.5 out of 10

Review Written by Nik Allen:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Nik Allen