Classic Movie/Giallo Review: Dario Argento’s INFERNO!

inferno

Then I realized my early work did have something special that audiences adored apart from what I humbly thought about them. They occupy a distinguished niche in Italian film history and probably always will.
Dario Argento

After many years of reading about Argento’s INFERNO I finally got around to seeing it. It starts off promising but ultimately meanders its way to an underwhelming, and more than a little amateurish conclusion.

And I say that being a huge fan of Dario Argento’s early work. I think his DEEP RED is a masterpiece and films such as his 1969 debut BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (as masterful a debut as you’ll find, and something of a warmup to DEEP RED), and his subsequent films of the 70s, are close to masterpieces and all deserving of viewing.

However as with many great directors of the 70s, that greatness would not extend into the 80s. In the 1980s director sweethearts of the the age of Aquarius such as Argento, found themselves scrambling to be relevant in an era of Reagonomics and Hollywood Blockbusters and sought to wrangle audiences with gore and excess over craft (And don’t get me wrong there are moments of brilliance in his post 80s work, TENEBRE while flawed, has some really masterfully composed scenes of… tension and horror, and I enjoyed his JENIFER for MASTERS OF HORROR, but on a whole they tend to fail to hold together).

INFERNO is on the cusp of that transition from 70s craft to 80s gore, but its failure seemingly has to be laid more at the hands of just a half-baked film concept/story. First the good: Here as in SUSPIRIA the visuals are great. Argento’s use of primary colors, and the use of architecture and sets, drenches the film in this decadent dream reality. However unlike SUSPIRIA it is hampered by an inferior, and annoying score, and a weak and underdeveloped protagonist (The actor who plays the lead like most of the actors in this film, seemed like he had no idea what to do in-front the camera, and just wasn’t someone the audience could really connect with) and the same for the antagonist, the mother of shadows, who appears in the final act and whose final form is pretty darn laughable. All in all a mess of a movie, that has to be laid at the hands of Argento’s script. Those flaws noted, if you are an Argento fan the film is worth seeing for the visuals alone. C-/D+.

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