A retired detective, Moretti (Max Von Sydow), investigates a series of gruesome murders which bear an uncanny resemblence to those committed 17 years previously; back then the perpetrator was a psychotic dwarf who committed suicide after being apprehended by Moretti , so he’s dead….isn’t he?
A director known for his ‘Hitchcockian’ camera angles and lavish murder scenes doesn’t disappoint; but unfortunately, the film’s first 20 minutes are so thumping with suspense that the rest of the film can’t quite live up to the opening reels. Yet, some bravo camerawork and a genuinely suprisingly plot-twist near the end keep the audience involved. Argento’s use of visual horror is as in-your-face as ever but everyone should find something to love in this movie.
There at least 2 jaw-dropping sequences. The first is the movie’s opening, set aboard a deserted commuter train at night. A prostitute is travelling back from a particularly sick client and has accidentally picked up a folder containing graphic images showing him to be a sadistic murderer. Of course, said psychopath is now on board the train with her and thus ensues a game of cat-and-mouse executed in an atmosphere of almost mesmerising tension.
The second notable sequence is near the end of the movie and our leather-gloved killer is now after the lead ballet dancer in a production of ‘Swan Lake’. The camera focuses on the floor of the area backstage and follows the manic footsteps of cast-and-crew busily preparing the next act in what can only be described as organised chaos; only to drift off to the side and another room where our ballet-dancer’s feet are dangling in the air as she is held-up off the floor and decapitated. This scene runs for at least a minute and is a real tour-de-force of the director’s unique style.
Few of Argento’s films benefit from a strong lead but Von Sydow is perfect in the role of the aging sleuth who still wants to solve the puzzle after 17 years. Moreover, the score by Goblin is one of their best and harks back to Argento’s golden years (“Deep Red” (1975), “Suspiria” (1977) and “Tenebre” (1982)).
The only real drawbacks are (1) the over-acting inherent in the English dubbing and (2) off-balance pacing to the middle of the movie. Both of these unpalatable traits are too often found in the Italian slasher genre.
Overall, Dario Argento makes a triumphant return to the giallo genre with this piece of stylish entertainment and it’s likely his best movie since “Phenomena” (1985). Whilst “Sleepless” (2001) doesn’t breathe the same air as that movie – and it’s nowhere near as wacky – it is as darn close as Argento has come come in a while.
hotdog rating: 7.5/10