As you may have guessed by the choices of material I tend to pursue, I'm a big fan of horror films. So, naturally, I gravitate to those filmmakers who are regarded as masters of the genre. However, after years of trying to comprehend his popularity, I have finally come to one inescapable conclusion about Italian horror director, DARIO ARGENTO: the man is a talentless, incompetent hack.
I just finished watching PHENOMENA
, in which a VERY young Jennifer Connolly plays an American girl sent to a European boarding school where a serial killer is brutally murdering her fellow students. I don't know if you get your tuition refunded when you make a discovery like this on your VERY FIRST NIGHT at school (Headmistress's first line to Jennifer after she arrives: "You! Get in bed! NOW!"), but I think a class-action suit would probably be warranted. Luckily for Jen, she possesses the very special talent of being able to communicate with insects telepathically, a discovery made by Donald Pleasance (always a welcome face in any horror outing tho sadly underused here)as a wheelchair-bound entomologist whose nursemaid and caretaker is--I kid you not--a chimpanzee.
I have enjoyed moments in all of Argento's films, and therein lies the truth of his skill as a filmmaker: he has MOMENTS of greatness, and they are few and far between. I remember watching the opening fifteen minutes of SUSPIRIA
and almost wetting my pants, only to find out that that was it. Film after film of his I've watched, or tried to--INFERNO, OPERA, TENEBRE
--only to catch these glimpses of brilliance surrounded by amateurish cinematography, atrocious scripting, and complete LACK of directorial capability whatsoever. Where is the brilliant film, marred only by a fleeting moment of badness? In the canon of Argento's work: nowhere.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh on the man because I've given him so many chances to impress me and he's failed to do so in any way, shape or form. Or, perhaps it's because I've just spent two hours watching a film whose climax involves Jennifer Connolly being rescued from a psychotic killer by a chimp wielding a straight razor.
Ultimately, I'm happy to have made this revelation so that I can avoid wasting another moment of my life on the putrid dreck that IS the cinema of Dario Argento. I'm done with him, and nothing will lure me back...not even the chance of seeing Oscar-winner Jennifer Connolly in a swimming pool full of rotting, maggot-ridden corpses: