The Origin of Dario Argento's Classic Tenebrae From His Stalker

The Origin of Dario Argento's Classic Tenebrae From His Stalker ...

The most well-known film by Dario Argento might be Suspiria, but it was also a reintroduction to the giallo pulp thriller genre that he created. The tales are inspired by Neal's work and, when the writer discovers the killer, the writer becomes an amateur detective. In the 1970s, Argento took the genre to new heights of style and explicit violence in such films as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red.

Argento was staying at a Los Angeles hotel when he received a series of strange phone calls. The caller was initially quite helpful and clearly knowledgeable about his films. However, things took a different turn when the caller started referring to himself as The Great Punisher. It was also an inspiration for him to begin writing a giallo about an insane fan, which would later be known as Tenebrae.

The similarities between Argento's real life experience and the film's plot are obvious. Neal is a giallo expert (albeit as a novelist) who is both knowledgeable and repulsed by the material. Berti is a classic giallo killer who is ultimately revealed to be a murderer in a series of anonymous letters sent to his hotel room.

Argento had taken his giallo skills to new heights. Four Flies on Grey Velvet features a credulity-stretching plot device (a scientific technique that scans the last image from a deceased persons retina) to reveal the killer. However, the second half is dispatched and replaced by a second murderer who kills more crudely with an axe.

Neal is used as a stand-in for Argento in this film, although he is ultimately revealed as the second psychopath. The director goes one step further in manipulating the audience.

Neal mocks the lead detective in giallo, claiming that he had constructed his own murder sequences like a book. Berti kills two people in one of Argento's most technically brilliant scenes, while a later scene, in which the soon-to-be-killed Bullmer watches people around him, invokes Hitchcocks Rear Window.

Tenebrae maintains a constant theme of doubling throughout the film. Two murderers and two sets of murders with different motives are revealed at different points. Many of the characters have doubles, or are mistaken for one another at key points. When Neal kills Berti and takes up the slaughter, another character and structure is revealed.

giallo is one of the most playful of genres, both stylish and deliberately artificial. Tenebrae is a master of the form, but he's also referencing his more conventional critics in the film. Tenebrae's brightness all leads up to an explosion of blood against a white wall in Neal's most brutal murder. As he reiterates in his autobiography, Tenebrae is also referencing a religious service that takes place in increasing darkness until the last moment (

Tenebrae is Argento's legacy, easily the director's finest film of the 80s, although 1987's Opera (another story about a murderous fan) comes close, surpassing his previous peak giallo, Deep Red.