[Movie Review] DARK GLASSES

[Movie Review] DARK GLASSES
Editor’s Note: In this review, Dolores builds on her capsule review, where she can dive more in-depth into what audiences can expect.

DARK GLASSES, aka Occhiali Neri in Italian, is Giallo and Horror Maestro Dario Argento’s return after ten years. Argento hasn’t made a film since 2012’s Dario Argento’s Dracula, which was quite an experience. DARK GLASSES is more of a return to the Giallo style for the Italian writer and director but it has a somewhat different tone than some of his previous works.

The film stars Ilenia Pastorelli (They Call Me Jeeg Robot) as Diana, a sex worker. It introduces Andrea Zhang as Chin, a young boy orphaned by a car accident that also blinds Diana shortly after she witnesses a total solar eclipse in the film’s eerie opening sequence. The film also stars Andrea Gherpelli (L’alligatore) as Matteo, Mario Pirrello (Marilyn’s Eyes) as Chief Inspector Aleardi, Maria Rosaria Russo (We Can Do That) as Ispettrice Bajani, Gennaro Iaccarino (“Sense8”) as Ispettore Baldacci and Asia Argento as Rita.

The film is written by Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini who have co-written a number of screenplays together for Argento’s films and related projects back to Argento’s Phenomena in 1985. While certain aspects of Argento’s style are still in place, the film seems to take a somewhat different tack in certain aspects. Giallo fans will be happy with the bloody kills that are in the film, but there aren’t as many and they aren’t as intricate as some of the ones in past Argento films. There also seems to be more of a focus on characters and character development than I have seen in previous Argento efforts.

Cinematographer Matteo Cocco (Hidden Away) does a fine job of lensing the film. It has a very glossy sheen even during the night shots. Arnaud Rebotini (The Blair Witch, “Entourage”) has composed a propulsive electronic score that is catchy.

Courtesy Shudder

DARK GLASSES is Dario Argento feeling out some different areas of his chosen genre. The problem with the film is the same areas where Argento’s films have always had weaknesses. Plot and acting. This time, where other Argento films have been strange and wild, the plot of DARK GLASSES is pedestrian. It’s basically Jack The Ripper, except that Jack is driven by cocaine and horror movies to kill. It seems odd that after making a film like Tenebrae, where Argento used a real-life incident where a fan made threats and blamed Argento’s work for violence that he would use this as part of the story. Aside from that, it’s just not that interesting.

The lead actors in the film are mostly not up to their respective roles. Ilenia Pastorelli is okay and is best when she has to portray anger or sexuality. It is when she is called upon to show vulnerability that her performance falters. The film’s lead requires a strong sympathetic presence and she doesn’t give that to the role or the film.

Then I must address the issue of Asia Argento. She is not a talented or dedicated actor. Her career as an actor is due entirely to nepotism. Were she not the daughter of Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi, she would not be working as an actress. She also has a credible accusation of statutory rape against her. It is shocking that she would be allowed to work on set with a small child since a young actor was the victim that she chose.

As the character of Rita, she doesn’t bother to exert any effort to act unless she is in a one-shot or two-shot and even then her work is not convincing. When she tries to seem warm and comforting, all you can see is cold hard cynicism in her eyes. If giving her this role is an effort to rehabilitate her reputation, the effort is reprehensible. The actor who plays the doctor who tells Pastorelli the reason why she is blind would have been a better choice in this role. The quality of Argento’s films has fallen the longer he has employed her. Maybe it’s time to do some actual casting and get someone who is up to the job.

Courtesy Shudder

The body count in this film is relatively low. Of the victims, the cops who get iced turn out best in the death sweepstakes, but neither one of the showcase deaths is impressive or well-acted. While you see gouts of blood in the first one, there’s no emotional frisson and the scene itself has no real tension or menace. The second one looks like it was phoned in from the cast member’s dressing room.

Reportedly, it was Asia Argento who found this script languishing in a drawer. That’s probably where it should have stayed. DARK GLASSES is a discouraging and cynical genre exercise from Dario Argento. It has been announced that Argento will be making a new film with Isabelle Huppert. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t repeat the mistakes of DARK GLASSES. It tries and fails to be more in line with modern horror cinema by not committing to empathy and realism. When the scariest part of a Dario Argento film is the mostly unrelated opening scene where the lead character stares directly into a solar eclipse, something is not right.

You can now watch DARK GLASSES on Shudder.

Dolores Quintana
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