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Tenebre (1982)

7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 11,741 users  
Reviews: 138 user | 146 critic

An American writer in Rome is stalked by a serial killer bent on harassing him while killing all people associated with his work on his latest book.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Christian Borromeo ...
Gianni
...
Tilde
Veronica Lario ...
Jane McKerrow
Ania Pieroni ...
Elsa Manni
Eva Robin's ...
Girl on Beach (as Eva Robins)
Carola Stagnaro ...
Detective Altieri
John Steiner ...
Christiano Berti
Lara Wendel ...
Maria Alboretto
...
Bullmer
Daria Nicolodi ...
Anne
Giuliano Gemma ...
Detective Germani
Isabella Amadeo ...
Bullmer's secretary
Mirella Banti ...
Marion
Ennio Girolami ...
Department Store Manager (as Enio Girolami)
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Storyline

With Argento's trademark visual style, linked with one of his more coherent plots, Tenebrae follows a writer who arrives to Rome only to find somebody is using his novels as the inspiration (and, occasionally, the means) of committing murder. As the death toll mounts the police are ever baffled, and the writer becomes more closely linked to the case than is comfortable. Written by David Carroll <davidc@atom.ansto.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Terror Beyond Belief See more »


Certificate:

X | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

13 February 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tenebre  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (edited) | (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Unused 'muzak' from Goblin's Dawn of the Dead (1978) score in background of scene where Tilda and her girlfriend argue before said girlfriend leaves with a man (right before scene with Argento's famed crane shot). See more »

Goofs

Just before Elsa is killed, the attacker shoves several individual wads of paper into her mouth. But as she dies, she spits it out and the pages are now wadded together in one giant ball. See more »

Quotes

Peter Neal: I've been charged, I've tried building a plot the same way you have. I've tried to figure it out; but, I just have this hunch that something is missing, a tiny piece of the jigsaw. Somebody who should be dead is alive, or somebody who should be alive is already dead.
Detective Germani: Explain that.
Peter Neal: You know, there's a sentence in a Conan Doyle book, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
See more »

Crazy Credits

Anne's screams continue even as the ending credits roll. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Dead Again (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

Take Me Tonight
Performed by Kim Wilde
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Argento's deliriously extreme suspense thriller
16 March 2001 | by (Edinburgh, Scotland) – See all my reviews

Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), a best selling mystery novelist, travels to Rome to promote his new book, Tenebrae, but before he arrives, a serial killer starts a reign of terror, inspired by the killings in the novel. Neal & his secretary Anne (Daria Nicolodi) decide to try & solve the murders. But can he find the killer before he strikes again?

Something of a change after the surreal, free-roaming nightmare-scapes of his two `Three Mothers' film (Suspiria –1977 & Inferno - 1980), Tenebrae is more concerned with narrative than most of Dario Argento's films. And if the director is at his best when he treads most daringly away from plausible reality, then Tenebrae is nevertheless an ideal starting place for newcomers to his work. A basic detective thriller structure is neatly offset by a series of weird flashback sequences (more memory than actual event), & some typically surreal chance events, notably the lengthy suspense sequence involving a vicious dog. Technically dazzling, the film is thoroughly doused with lashings of violence & gore, topped with the extended quasi-Hitchcockian suspense sequences that the director does so well. A sequence with Bulmer (the excellent John Saxon) in a square is easily a match for the cropduster build-up in North by Northwest (1960). The dazzling scene with the camera travelling over the roof of a building, peering in all the windows is no less effective, with Goblin's rock-disco score becoming music on the stereo upstairs. All of the (numerous) murder sequences are handling with astonishing flair & panache, being almost poetic at times.

Re-uniting with Suspiria cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (who also did Antonioni's The Passenger - 1975), Argento forgoes the rich colour schemes that characterised the `Three Mothers' films. Here, everything is in blinding, sterile white – a direct contrast to the themes of the film (the title means Darkness – i.e. of the soul). It also provides a telling visual contrast to both the deep red of blood & a key pair of shoes, as well as black (the genre standard leather gloves, sunglasses, & hair – all the women are brunettes).

Tenebrae also pre-dates Scream (1996) with its self-deconstruction & irony, the characters constantly discussing everything from literary influences & narrative construction to representations of women. Thankfully, despite plenty of humour in the film, it's no-where near as annoyingly self-satisfied or unsubtle as Scream. In fact, Tenebrae is rich with subtexts, particularly about sexism. The killer is driven by his inability to accept female empowerment, rendered by the symbolic rape of him by her stiletto (& revenged by his knife), the part being played by a transsexual. Sure, none of this is subtle, but the brazen lack of subtlety is one of the things that makes Argento's films so treasurable. Accusations of misogyny could be laid, but when depicting a misogynistic killer, it's inevitable that there's going to be more female deaths than male, & the deaths of the men are handled no different to those of the women.

Of course, it's plenty easy to ignore the subtexts & simply enjoy Tenebrae as the deliriously off-the rails, hyper violent thriller, with gratuitous nudity & surreal gore. As a flat-out rollercoaster ride, Tenebrae delivers the goods in full. The only question is whether or not you can handle it.


12 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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