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I'm beginning to laugh at the distinctions people draw between "good"
and "bad" Dario Argento films. They all seem to have some common
technical elements: clever camera-work, grotesque but deliberately
unrealistic violence, weird music, incomprehensible plots,
"impressionistic" titles, and poor acting. None of them work perfectly,
even for fans of this style. The variations between the movies, then,
come from the genre accidentals "Profondo Rosso" is a detective
thriller, "Suspiria" an occult conspiracy tale, etc.; Argento seems to
come along and apply his own unique vision of the giallo onto whatever
horror style is fashionable at the time. It's his uniqueness, rather
than his ability to produce great films, that has assured his place in
So, then, "Trauma" turns out to be exactly what we would expect from an early nineties Dario Argento film. Camera-work? Check even in this late period, Argento's eye and technique are strange and impressive. Violence? Double check although what the actual purpose of that Decapitron device is supposed to be, I can't imagine. Weird music? Check orchestral rather than Goblin this time, but still louder and a little more engaged than we would expect. Odd plot, check, arbitrary title, check, bad acting, check Asia Argento actually manages to make Aura a likable character, but you can't deny that she garbles her lines and seems mostly amateurish throughout. (And she's hardly alone in those respects.)
The slasher subgenre had died out a bit by this point, but no better reason for Argento to try to freshen it up a bit with his unique stamp. The story's quite watchable and fun, and occasionally funny too - more in the vein of "Phenomena" than the early stuff. It's frequently ridiculous, of course, but show me a movie of his that isn't. And while there's a sex element to the film, it has a surprisingly innocent quality, perhaps because Argento was directing his own daughter in the lead. (I'm sure Freud would have a field day with it, though.)
In the end, it's hard to strongly recommend it to anyone diehards are as likely to hate it as love it, and casual viewers are going to find his style absurd. So I'll give it a 6.5, with the simple comment that I would watch it again.
Italian horror master Dario Argento's only venture into American
film-making was this tight, unique thriller.
Young man tries to help a troubled anorexic girl catch the 'head-hunter' killer that murdered her parents.
Trauma is a film that has been given the shaft by many critics, including some of Argento's own fans. Trauma is a step outside of Argento's typical colorful style as it goes for a more subtle look. Still Argento does flair with some creativeness in this film. The camera work and atmosphere are splendid, helping to make the mysterious story all the more intriguing. Pino Donaggio also lends some good music to the film as well. The theme song 'Ruby Rain' sang by Laura Evans is a nicely haunting little piece by itself. Also different from the other works of Argento, this film is rather light on gore, but still manages to have some shocking murder sequences thanks to some wild set-ups.
The cast is quite good. Chris Rydell shines as our likable young hero. Asia Argento, Dario's daughter, does a decent role as the young victim wrapped up in the mystery. Veteran actress Piper Laurie is great as always as Asia's psychic mother. The supporting cast hold their own too.
Despite its differences from Argento's earlier classics, Trauma is a fine piece of film-making itself. It's a must-see for Argento fans and just right for those seeking an off-beat thriller!
*** 1/2 out of ****
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Technovision)
Sound format: Dolby Stereo
A TV newsroom artist (Mark Rydell) helps a distraught anorexic (Asia Argento) to investigate the death of Argento's mother (Piper Laurie) at the hands of a monstrous serial killer.
Though often cited as the film which signalled a creative downturn in Dario Argento's career, TRAUMA is actually a much better entry than its reputation suggests. The victim of spotty theatrical distribution and horrendous pan-scanned video versions - which reduce the wide Technovision frame to a mere shadow of its former self - the film is an exercise in giallo excess, culminating in one of the finest Grand Guignol set-pieces of this director's long career. Indeed, far from providing evidence of 'creative decline', TRAUMA is actually a fine addition to Argento's filmography, and is ripe for reappraisal.
Despite its American setting, the film is defiantly European in style and execution, employing ultra-wide scope framing, inventive camera-work (including a bizarre shot from the point-of-view of a butterfly!!), ornate narrative structure and eccentric characterizations. It's no wonder some of the supporting American players seem a little disconcerted by the director's unconventional approach (including Frederic Forrest as a doctor sporting an unexplained neck-brace, and James Russo as a typically hard-boiled cop, always one step behind the film's youthful protagonists)! And the script - co-written by Argento and celebrated fantasy author T.E.D. Klein - adheres faithfully to the giallo template, punctuating its convoluted storyline with several grisly murders (though not *that* grisly, considering the involvement of makeup wiz Tom Savini), and a number of compelling set-pieces: The seance which ends in murder; the mental institution where the killer disposes of an important 'clue'; the room full of billowing drapes (an authentic stroke of genius); and the climactic revelation of the killer's motive, which is so utterly horrific, it almost justifies his/her gruesome rampage. The movie ain't called TRAUMA for nothing!
At least two other versions of the film have surfaced in bootleg video form over the years, both of which plug a number of gaping editorial gaps in the official 'director's cut' (note, for instance, the abrupt introduction of Rydell and Asia at the beginning of the film), which indicates either distributor problems or a rushed post-production schedule. This may explain why Pino Donaggio's half-hearted score sounds like it was written and recorded before completion of principal photography and tailored to match the finished product, rather than the other way around. The cast is a typical Argentonian mixed bag: Asia portrays the same joyless harpy she's played in all her collaborations with Argento to date (including THE STENDHAL SYNDROME and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA), leaving Rydell to shoulder most of the film's emotional burden as a young man who learns to accept Asia's flaws whilst simultaneously falling in love with her (few) virtues. Frankly, she doesn't deserve him! Laurie makes much of her limited screen time as Asia's domineering mother, while Brad Dourif (the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) plays a former doctor whose guilty conscience comes back to haunt him in the worst possible way. Watch out for ex-"Falcon Crest" star Laura Johnson in a brief but creepy performance (her final scene is genuinely chilling) as an ambitious TV news anchorwoman who tries to stake her claim on Rydell in no uncertain terms.
Teenage Aura (Asia Argento) escapes a clinic where she is receiving
treatment for an eating disorder. She gets rescued by a passing
motorist (Christopher Rydell) who attempts to save her from committing
suicide by jumping off a bridge. Things only get worse for poor Aura
when she returns home to her parents (her mother played by Piper Laurie
is a seer) are soon killed by a serial killer by the name of 'Head
Hunter'. Aura attempts to get answers (with the help of the good
Samaritan) as she fights her weakened state, the clinic personal and
the serial killer.
Dario Argento once again mines the familiar giallo territory in this, his first American co-production. 'Trauma' has some of the horror masters most polished camera work. Known for his awesome killer POV shots, Argento will goes for the gusto here. 'Trauma' truly has some of his best work. The story (which was co-written by T.E.D. Klein) is a pretty solid effort complete with a twist ending. The scripts have never been the strongest components in Argento's work but this one is pretty strong and the twists and turn jell pretty well. Tom Savini once again enters slasher territory with all sorts of lovely be-headings. The fake heads created for the film are some of the best. The cast does a nice job (look for a young looking Brad Dourif in a glorified cameo) with the material. 'Trauma is another strong giallo entry by one of the Masters.
There are some good stuff here to be sure. Argento-fans tend to rate this way down on the scale and criticize it for being to "americanized". I don't agree. Sure, there is a certain sense of "half-baked Argento" here and there, but I don't find that to be a minus point. If anything, being made in the states, it has more convincing performances and the production values can not be faulted. It's look may seem aneamic if viewed beside "Suspiria" or something more of Argento's more gaudy creations, but I think that this is intentional. Cinematography it absolutely top-notch, conveying a suitably spooky atmosphere to many scenes. The story is fairly straight-forward for an Argento movie, but not standard fare, and if this had been made by a newcomer it would have been hailed as very solid suspenser indeed. The plot twists and turns even if the outcome isn't too much of a surprise. However, one thing really bothers me about "Trauma". The sfx-work by Tom Savini is truly awful. Some scenes, like the one in the elevator-shaft, start creepy enough but are ruined by the effects overall cheesiness (the falling head is only laughable instead of frightening). Shame on you, Savini! Bring on Sergio Stivalletti! Another thing that's not very good is Pino Donaggios score, which he seems to have composed in his sleep. It's not bad, it's just that it seems so routine. Compared to "Deep red" and a few others, this is not Argento at his best. But even Argento at half-speed is better and more interesting than most directors produce within a lifetime.
Dario Argento's "Trauma" of 1993 is definitely one of this great
director's lesser films, but it is nevertheless a more than decent
Thriller and better than most 90s Horror films. The 90s were a bad
decade for Horror in general, and definitely also the worst decade in
Dario Argento's career, with his doubtlessly worst movie "Il Fantasma
Dell' Opera" in 1998. "Two Evil Eyes" of 1990 which he made with George
A. Romero, was also a good Horror film, but not nearly as great as a
film by Romero and Argento could have been. "Trauma" is definitely not
comparable to Argento's masterpieces from the 70s and 80s. As far as I
am considered, however, Argento is one of the greatest Horror directors
of all-time, and films like "Suspiria", "Profondo Rosso" or "Phenomena"
range high in my personal all-time favorite list. Even Argento's weaker
films are usually above average, and "Trauma" is a more than decent
film that easily outshines the majority of 90s Horror efforts.
Director Argento's daughter, then 18-year-old Asia Argento stars as Aura, a teenage Romanian girl who has escaped from a mental hospital where her parents sent her, supposedly to cure her anorexia. What Aura is really fleeing from, however, is a serial killer who only operates when it rains. Journalist David (Christopher Rydell) wants to help the girl...
Generally speaking, "Trauma" has everything decent Horror films need - it is stylishly filmed, atmospheric and very suspenseful from the beginning to the end. What Trauma sadly lacks, are many of the brilliant trademark Argento elements. Most of Argento's masterpieces from the 70s and 80s had brilliant scores by Progressive Rock band Goblin. "Trauma" unfortunately hasn't, which is one of the elements that I missed most. The change of scenery from Europe to the United States doesn't compliment Argento's style of film-making either. Then again, the camera work is, as usual, great, and even though the film is not quite as ultra-violent as some other Argento films, there is quite an amount of stylish, gory bloodshed. The performances are fine too (although not breathtaking), especially young Asia Argento convinces in her first leading role. The supporting cast contains Frederic Forest, Brad Dourif and Piper Laurie.
As mentioned above, "Trauma" is certainly not one of Argento's masterpieces. But even this ingenious filmmaker's lesser films are above average, and "Trauma" is definitely a more than decent 90s Giallo that Horror fans should not miss! Recommended!
Dario Argento, the king of Italian horrorfilms has truly outdone
himself with the excellent 1993 Trauma. The story goes of a young girl
who has an eating disorder. At the same time a killer is loose in the
city who starts decapitating people in a particularly gruesome manner.
The gore was there, although not as over the top as Argento usually does it, Asia and Christopher Rydell (who are both hottt) are very nice actors, the killers motive is convincing and disturbing, and the directing was superb. Although the fact that many people loathed it for being too American, i loved the fact that it was shot in America. In fact, I believe it was the first time Argento used a black person for a role in his films. I liked it because it was finally different.
You should see this very underrated Argento film, as it is one of my gory favorites of his. If you see this, you should also try to find Stendhal Syndrome, also with Asia Argento, and very recommended.
Dario Argento makes a clunky transition to film-making in the United States with "Trauma," but still succeeds in creating an atmosphere of suspense and menace. The cast, while well-chosen, is prone to overacting (with Piper Laurie and Frederic Forrest being the key offenders), and the plot revolves heavily around coincidence. Despite this, Argento's skillful POV shots (the hospital sequence is especially impressive) imbue the film with an efficient mood of dread, and the story, once fully revealed, makes a bit more sense than the director's earlier, more artistic efforts. Tom Savini's makeup effects are well-done, but underutilized (even in the uncut version).
Dario Argento's Trauma is his only American film in full length.
The film is filled with elements from his previous Italian produced films. The Hitchcockian element from Argento's Animal trilogy is present here (the Hitchcock element even furthered by Pino Donaggio's music score, a frequent Brian De Palma collabarator), as is the Freudian undertone of repressed guilt and past sins from Deep Red and Tenebrae. This is Argento basically delivering his usual giallo in a more American style. And he's hugely successful at it, too.
Trauma has a lot of great set pieces, some great scenes of extreme violence and gore to spare,a cleverly plotted and written story, decent performances from Rydell and Asia and genuine old fashioned suspense. And a devilishly clever ending. Trauma has it all in abundance.
It goes a bit over the top concerning those severed heads and some make-up effects could have been better, I thought. But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise excellent suspense yarn from a master director. Trauma may well be his most underrated film.
I have to say, also, that I find it immensely enjoyable that Argento used live sound here instead of his usual dubbing.
Italian's top-class horror director Dario Argento obviously impressed
some people with his previous films ('Opera' in particular) as he was
offered the opportunity to film a fully American backed production.
Trauma is a gruesome and sadistic thriller from the giallo-master,
completely set in Minnesota and depending on a respectable US cast.
There's a serial decapitator at large and the young, anorexic Aura
(director's daughter Asia Argento) seemly is his/her main-target. The
good-hearted journalist David (Christopher Rydell) takes the girl under
his wings after the killer got both of her parents and, as their
relationship becomes more intimate, the routine of sadistic killings
slowly emerges. A bone-chilling mystery from the past slowly unravels
and it involves multiple (ex-)doctors from a psychiatric clinic.
The plots in gialli rarely are credible so you can count on the fact that this 'Trauma' contains several far-fetched nonsense aspects as well. Especially the U-turn twist near the end is pretty hard to digest. My advise: don't pay too much attention to this and drown in Argento's brilliant as always camera movements and the stunning portrayal of the violence. Trauma may not be as bloody as 'Tenebrae' or the more recent 'Sleepless' but some of the butchering done here still is perfectly nauseating. What else do you expect with a killer whose modus operandi includes beheading people? Unfortunately, Argento still lacks the skills to direct his actors. You can't even blame the dubbing this time, but the performances are far below average. Asia Argento is forgiven, since it was her first leading role. But I expected a little better from routine B-stars like Frederic Forrest, Piper Laurie and James Russo. Brad Dourif is a joy to observe, but his appearance is far too brief to save the dull acting. To me, Trauma turned out to be a pleasant Sunday afternoon time-waster. Not nearly Argento's most memorable film (he hasn't made any memorable film in the 90's) but maybe the ideal film for inexperienced horror fans to get into contact with Argento's work. All the trademarks that made him legendary in the field are present, but none of them is properly elaborated like it should be.
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