Archive for Dario Argento

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Review

Posted in Dawn of the Dead (1978) with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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DAWN OF THE DEAD

***** Out of 5

Tagline- When There’s No More Room in Hell, the Dead Will Walk the Earth

Release Date- September 2nd, 1978

Running Time- 127-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- George A. Romero

Starring- David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross

Released in 1978 (but hit the States in 79) George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is considered by many as the best film of his career and the holy grail of the zombie film and if that isn’t enough Dawn of the Dead also gets classic status among the mainstream critics. The film was produced on about a 1-million dollar budget and what Romero pulled off is nothing short of amazing. This film is very much an epic and changed the way zombie films were made and I also love Night of the Living Dead and its impossible for me to pick between the two films, but it sure isnt difficult to see why many people prefer this. In some ways I also prefer Dawn of the Dead and both films were a huge impact on me and I kind of like them about the same for different reasons.

1978 was a fantastic year for the horror genre with 3 films being in my top 10 (a case can be made for top 3). Obviously Dawn of the Dead is one and also John Carpenter’s Halloween and the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Also that year while not top 10, but films I thought were very good; Toolbox Murders, I Spit on Your Grave, Grapes of Death and the TV films Are You Alone in the House and Carpenter’s Someone’s Watching Me. So as you can see 1978 was one of those landmark years with some truly great films and with some very good films. Of the three films I rate so highly it’s impossible for me to pick one over the other since they are all so different and each have something I love more than the other. Dawn of the Dead is one of those rare films (even more in the horror genre) where everything falls perfectly into place and we get a true masterpiece of cinema.

In past reviews I have written on about the films by George Romero I always mention that while he’s an amazing director he’s also a fantastic writer who creates complex characters that are deep in development. Dawn of the Dead is prime example of that. As far as the writing goes this was by far Romero’s best screenplay in regards to plotting and more so characters. Dawn of the Dead in my opinion has the best set of characters in any film I have seen. Some know each other and others don’t and their forced to work together in the mass confusion. All the characters have their own identity and fully developed and I couldn’t really pick any of the main 4 as my favorite. Dawn of the Dead is one of those films where you get attached to the characters and when in any sort of danger the tension is high. That’s a credit to 3 things; first Romero for creating these characters, his direction and cast. Overall Dawn of the Dead features a truly brilliant script with a smart plot, smart social commentary and brilliant characters.

As amazing as the script was without the proper director this is a film that could have been boring despite how well written it was. Thankfully George Romero is as good a director as he is writer. From the very opening of the scene, Romero establishes a dark and bleak tone to go with the mass confusion all the characters are going through. The film is well paced and despite running a little over 2-hours each scene adds to the film in terms of story, characters or suspense and tension. Romero always keeps the film going strong through the entire running time. Due to the characters being as strong as they are, Dawn of the Dead is filled with some of the very best suspense and tension of any film I have seen. Romero doesn’t really have many jump scares for the most part, which filmmakers use as a cheap gimmick, but by establishing an eerie and bleak tone to go with these great characters, there is always a feel of suspense and even more so when any of the 4 characters are in any danger. However in with a dark tone there is also a light and fun tone, which some people didn’t like. I didn’t mind the lighter parts and I think most complaints stem from some of the comedy like the pie in the face scenes to the zombies. Though some of the lighter scenes with the characters I thought were great and adds a lot of depth to Dawn of the Dead.

The mall setting helps us feel comfortable since its something we know. You’ll always feel safer when in an environment that you know and we’ve all been to a mall and despite the dangers that lurk around we the viewer can still feel comfortable since we’re in a place we all can relate to and I think that’s part of why for the longest time Day of the Dead wasn’t as highly regarded since it takes us away from our comfort zone. But being set in a mall is something we can all relate to and Romero uses this place we’ve been to a million times and makes it something eerie. But I do think setting the film in a mall was brilliant as again its something we can relate to.

The acting was terrific and in my opinion Dawn of the Dead features some of the best acting in any horror movie. As I mentioned I feel as if this movie has the best set of characters and the cast is a big part of that. Like I said I really can’t pick a favorite since everyone of the main characters were likable.

Overall there is a reason why Dawn of the Dead is so highly regarded not just as a horror film, but as a film in general. The writing and directing is great as is the acting. The production values are amazing and for a film shot for about 1-million it not only looks far bigger in budget, but looks more expensive than a good portion of big budget Hollywood releases. There really isn’t much more I can say that others haven’t, but Dawn of the Dead truly is a masterpiece of filmmaking.

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Trauma (1993) Review

Posted in Trauma with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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TRAUMA

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Some Nightmares Haunt You; Some Can Kill You

Release Date- March 12, 1993

Running Time- 106-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Dario Argento & T.E.D. Klein

Director- Dario Argento

Starring- Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento, Frederic Forrest, James Russo, Brad Dourif, Laura Johnson and Piper Laurie as Adriana Petrescu

Released in 1993 Trauma was Dario Argento’s first full length movie of the 90s and also his first full length film made by an American production company. At the time of Trauma’s release a lot of the great horror filmmakers that got their start in the late 60s and into the 70s were starting to decline and with the lack of younger filmmakers to emerge the horror genre began to hit a bit of a rut. Trauma is a movie by a filmmaker who may not be what he once was, but still hanging on to his old glory. Most Argento fans see Trauma as a middle of the road movie and while I can’t really defend it from being just that, but I personally always enjoyed this movie and I still do and by no means is this one of Argento’s best movies, but I still very much enjoyed Trauma.

When compared to movies like Deep Red or Suspiria I suppose you can find a few things to dislike about Trauma. The movie doesn’t feature the amazing use of colors, the camera shots aren’t anything special and it lacks the eerie feel of Argento’s earlier films, but with that said I personally think Trauma is an excellent movie and even if it doesn’t hit the highs of past Argento movies in my opinion it’s a movie that can still stand proudly with his classic movies. A lot of the themes in Trauma are classic Argento and again this is a film made by a director that is just able to deliver enough to hold onto his old glory, but after Trauma the films of Dario Argento were very hit or miss and this last film by Argento I hold in high regard.

When it comes to Argento’s work the only thing I always mention in my reviews is the writing. In general I think that would probably be his biggest weakness; at times some of his movies can be incoherent or feature plot twists that don’t always make a lot of sense and sometimes the characters can do things that sort of lack logic. And speaking of the characters I personally felt Argento never really had great characters that could carry his movies or at least not for too long. Deep Red & The Bird with the Crystal Plumage are the two movies I felt Argento had very solid characters, but even in those at times certain things the characters do kind of lack sense. Trauma was written by Dario Argento & T.E.D. Klein and this just might be the most coherent script to come from Argento. The movie deals with a killer on the loose decapitating their victims and the killer is dubbed the Head Hunter. Argento & Klein craft a solid script with a nice mystery and this is pretty much standard Giallo.

The one area where I think Trauma has an edge over most of Argento’s work is here he creates two excellent characters in Aura (Asia Argento) and David (Rydell). Aura and David are both interesting characters with plenty of depth and these characters can also carry the movie. Both characters are quite complex in particular Aura who among several problems is dealing with anorexia and this adds a layer of drama mostly unseen in Argento’s past movies. The script by Argento & Klein may not be perfection, but it’s the most character driven movie Argento has ever done and even in other movies where certain characters were able to carry the story they were only able to do it for so long whereas with Trauma the characters here are more than able to carry the script for long stretches and I think Aura and David might be Argento’s best and most deep characters.

As director Dario Argento delivers a solid paced and fun movie; even though Trauma has quite a few elements found in past Argento movies the direction isn’t anything special, but yet something for me really works well here. The use of colors isn’t on display and visually Argento doesn’t really create any wild shots. However none of this hurts Trauma as Argento again delivers a well-paced movie and while Trauma might lack the atmosphere as such movies as Deep Red & Tenebre, he still delivers an entertaining movie. Argento is able to craft some decent suspense and even though again it might lack at times in that area, Argento still keeps the movie entertaining. However the final act is when the pacing does begin to slow down a bit and honestly Trauma could have been wrapped up a bit quicker, but overall don’t expect another Deep Red or Suspiria, but at this stage in his career, Argento crafts a solid film.

As much as I enjoyed Trauma it’s not without its flaws; starting with Deep Red every Dario Argento film was scored by Goblin or Claudio Simonetti formerly of Goblin, but with this film the studio felt a more American sounding score was needed and Pino Donaggio was brought in and he’s done some great scores such as Carrie, but there are films where his score can be quite poor and Trauma was one of those films. The score at least for me at times does kill the suspense and tension at times. When he’s on Donaggio is an excellent composer, but when he’s off it can be bad and sadly this was an off film. I think Trauma would have greatly benefited is Simonetti was the composer and would have helped elevate the film. Also the movie does lack the needed gore and seeing as the F/X were done by Tom Savini one can’t help, but be a little disappointed. I enjoy gore in flicks, but it’s not a must and even though Argento’s flicks can at times be really graphic I never really thought of him as a gore director, but this movie is a little too light on gore seeing as Savini did the F/X and the fact the movie deals with decapitations one would expect a little more in the gore area, but the F/X are solid, but wouldn’t make a Savini highlight reel.

I think Argento fans should give Trauma another try and while it’s hard not to compare this to his earlier work, but if you take Trauma for what it’s worth you might be surprised; the characters are among Argento’s best and this is his most character driven movie. Trauma is a movie by a filmmaker that may not be what he once was, but still has enough left in the tank and is far better than given credit for.

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Horror by Year: 1982

Posted in Horror by Year with tags , , , , on April 14, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

Here’s my top 10 of 1982, which was a solid year, but as a list its not the strongest year. But I enjoyed all the films in my top 10. I know some people will disagree with my rating for the Thing. I like the film, but just never loved it as much as most Carpenter fans. Many cite that as one of if not his best. I’m a massive Carpenter fan, but it doesn’t crack my top 5. But again I do like the film just not as much as other people. Maybe one day that will change.

These lists are a work in progress as there will always be films left out since I either haven’t seen them (its not easy to track down certain titles and can be a bit expensive). Also there are films i haven’t seen in years and cannot fairly rate them. So at anytime the list can be altered.

10. Living Dead Girl- *** ½

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9. Madman- *** ½

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8. Pieces- *** ½

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7. The Thing- – *** ½

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6. Halloween 3- *** ½

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5. The Dorm That Dripped Blood- *** ½

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4. Friday the 13th Part 3- ****

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3. The Slumber Party Massacre- ****

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2. Tenebre- ****

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1. The New York Ripper- ****

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Inferno (1980) Review

Posted in Inferno with tags , , , , , , , on February 13, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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INFERNO

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Terror That’s Hotter than Hell

Release Date- February 7th, 1980

Running Time- 107-Minutes

Rating- R

Writer/Director- Dario Argento

Starring- Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, Eleonora Giorgi, Daria Nicolodi

Inferno released in 1980 is the follow-up film to Suspiria, which was a major success for Dario Argento, but Inferno is the type of sequel that you don’t need to see Suspiria first and the only link are the Three Mothers, but besides that it’s a mostly stand-alone film. Inferno draws a lot of mixed reaction from Argento fans with some hailing it as a masterpiece and others think it’s one of Argento’s weaker films and I can see both sides of the argument and personally I think the movie is somewhere in the middle despite my 4-star rating.

When it comes to Dario Argento I always say the only real weakness he has is as a writer, which is odd seeing as he started as a film critic and when he started his film career it was as a writer in 1966 and he would make his directorial debut in 1970 with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The script by Argento for Inferno is quite weak with an incoherent plot. Some of Argento’s early films had fairly decent scripts such as his debut film Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red, but his witchcraft movies Suspiria and Inferno both suffered in terms of writing, but Suspiria was still able to shine. His Gialli are well plotted, but often lack sense at times, but the writing is a lot better in his gialli than in movies like Inferno. Not a whole lot here makes sense and any explanation given is rather vague and I suppose if you see the movie enough times things might begin to make sense, but for the most part the plot is rather messy and confusing.

The characters are kind of bland and not very well developed, which is something I find common in a lot of Argento movies. He’s had some interesting characters like in Deep, Red and Tenebre, but I personally felt he never created a truly iconic character. There really isn’t a lead character in Inferno if anyone it would be Mark Elliot (McCloskey), but the movie focuses on a few different characters and I think this is what sort of salvages the script since no character was really strong enough to carry the flick we get a few different people leading the way at different times.

The plot has Mark a music student traveling to New York to visit his sister, but when he arrives she’s nowhere to be found as he begins to explore he like his sister learns about the three mothers, which than puts Mark in danger. As I stated there really isn’t much of a plot with things happening that are quite random and while these elements normally sink a film, but Inferno still manages to work despite the lack of plot and fairly weak characters.

Like with Suspiria it was Dario Argento the director that made the movie work so well and while Inferno never reaches the level of Suspiria, Argento is able to deliver a fairly eerie movie with some decent suspense. Dario Argento never really tries to make sense out of anything, but even though the incoherent plot hurts the movie in some ways, it does allow Argento to make a movie that feels like a really bad dream; Inferno may not make a whole lot of sense at times, but it’s fairly creepy and weird and has a nice nightmare type feel. However, the strongest aspect of the film is the visual look, which is simply stunning. Dario Argento has always been a visual filmmaker, but Inferno might just be his most beautiful film to look at and thanks to Blue-Underground’s release of the Blu-ray we get to see this in all it’s high-definition glory. The use of colors are simply beautiful and the camera shots are amazing and again Inferno is visually stunning and that in part help makes a lot more out of Inferno.

The pacing at times can be a little sluggish and even at 106-minutes Inferno can feel a little overly long; in my opinion there aren’t many filmmakers that can stage a death scene like Argento and Inferno may not be his best in that regard, but he does deliver some interesting death scenes. Besides that again the pacing can be a little slow and with no real story it can make for a few slow moments, but Argento’s eye for visuals does at times make up for the semi-slow pacing. The problems are more of less in the 2nd half due to the lack of plot, but like I said while the pace can be a bit sluggish and the film a little overly long, Argento’s brilliant visual look keeps the film from getting boring.

Overall Inferno was a solid if not underwhelming movie and while I don’t see this as one of Argento’s best flicks more along the lines of middle of the pack, but despite the flaws and they may actually out-weigh the positives, but Inferno still works for the most part and Argento fans should enjoy. The stunning visual look to go with the nightmare like feel and fairly decent suspense help make more out of Inferno than there might actually be. The film again is incoherent, but there is just something about this I really enjoy.

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10 More Movies to Watch for Halloween

Posted in 10 More Movie to Watch for Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Like the first list, this is in no order or an all-time favorite list.

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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) Review by Dave Kaye

Posted in Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The with tags , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye

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THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- If You Think You Are Being Followed Home from This Movie, Keep Telling Yourself That It’s All in Your Mind

Release Date- February 19th, 1970

Running Time- 96-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Dario Argento

Starring- Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi, Umberto Raho

While The Bird with the Crystal Plumage may not be the best known Dario Argento movie it is legendary seeing as this was his directorial debut; prior to Plumage, Argento was a film critic and then began writing screenplays including a story credit on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. With Plumage, Argento makes one of the best directorial debuts and watching the movie it comes across as a movie by a seasoned pro rather than a first time director. If you look at Craven’s debut with Last House on the Left and Romero with Night of the Living Dead these two are great films and a little rough around the edges, which only make the movies better, but you can tell they were early in their careers, but with Plumage if someone told me this was Argento’s 5th movie or so I’d believe it.

Mario Bava is the man credited with staring the Giallo and as great as Bava was it was Dario Argento who mastered the Giallo and he’s never been and never will be matched. I’m not sure where I’d rate The Bird with the Crystal Plumage in Argento’s career, but it is one of his strongest films in my opinion. Everything that made Argento such a force in the horror genre is on display here and again I’m not sure where I’d rate this, but a case can be made for this being Argento’s best film.

I think even the most loyal of Argento fans could agree his one weakness are the screenplays, which is odd since he got started as a writer, but in general his scripts can sometimes be weak with a plot that isn’t fully developed. I don’t think Dario Argento is a terrible writer by any means, but it’s his directing that made him such a legend in the horror genre and not the writing; Argento is such a brilliant director he was more than able to make up for any flaws with the scripts.

Sam Dalmas (Musante) is an American writer staying in Rome and on his way home he sees a woman Monica (Renzi) being attacked in an Art Gallery and as he tries to help he gets stuck between a double set of glass doors the woman survives and Sam ends up getting involved in the investigation and as he starts thinking back to the attack he feels something doesn’t add up and he soon becomes a target for the killer. This was a common theme in a few of Argento’s movies including Deep Red and Trauma, which you see something, but if it may not be so cut and dry. For the most part Plumage is well-written and cleverly plotted with some nice plot twists, but it is slightly brought down by scenes that aren’t explained in enough detail, which makes them sort of pointless. When Sam is attacked by an assassin no explanation is ever given though I suppose the audience can put two and two together, but that isn’t the point; also there is a scene in which Sam gets attacked while walking home and afterwards he plays it off like it wasn’t a big deal. These flaws with the script aren’t major, but they do slightly hurt the movie just a little bit.

The characters are fairly interesting and as a whole probably some of Argento’s better characters. Sam in my opinion is one Argento’s most interesting and likable characters. Overall Plumage is one of Argento’s better screenplays, but as I mentioned before certain elements aren’t explained enough, which can make them a bit confusing and later pointless; the script does focus more on the investigation rather than action and Argento does a fine job at keeping it interesting. Argento had some interesting characters, but I felt he never really had Iconic characters and while Sam and Julia (Kendall) may not be the best developed both characters work well enough for the viewer to become invested in them.

As director Argento does an excellent job at creating suspense and an eerie tone as well as even creating some light moments with a nice touch of comedy that never feel out of place or hurt the pacing of the movie. There are a few scenes that never really go anywhere, which has more to do with the writing and editing rather than the direction, but at least these scenes provide some light moments, but if removed such as the scene with Sam and the inmate and later on the painter I think Plumage would have moved at a much tighter pace; Argento makes these work, but they do slightly hinder the film, but besides these minor complaints the direction by Argento is top notch and like I said seems more like a film by a seasoned pro rather than first time filmmaker; there are only a couple of death scenes in Plumage and the only disappointing thing about that is the scenes with the killer are very suspense and tension filled and some of the best sequences Argento has ever filmed; the highlight comes around the 30-minute mark with one of the most memorable scenes in the movie or any Argento movie for that matter.

Dario Argento would be dubbed the Italian Hitchcock and there is good reason for that; everything that has made Argento such a brilliant filmmaker is on display in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and while as his career went on he would master these things, but Plumage shows why Argento was called The Italian Hitchcock and shows why this filmmaker has gone down as a legend in not only Italian cinema, but cinema around the world.

Overall The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was an excellent debut for Dario Argento with a strong plot and plenty of twist and turns and while this may not be Argento’s finest outing it can however be a contender.

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