The horror genre has a rich history comprising of an abundance of talented filmmakers. Amongst them is one of the most skilled directors, who incorporates dream-like realities, black-gloved killers, and violently gory deaths in his movies. You guessed it right, it’s Dario Argento! This seventy-three-year-old horror veteran has had a plentiful career spanning over several films. To a mainstream crowd, he might be remembered for producing the original Dawn of the Dead, but to others, he is known for being one of the foremost pioneers of the Giallo movie genre. Throughout his career, Argento has created a wealth of cinematic masterpieces that touched many lives. This video will portray some of these classic gems that everyone must watch.
The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)
Anna Manni is a policewoman attempting to capture the vicious serial rapist and killer, Alfredo Grossi. Her problem is that she suffers from Stendhal’s syndrome, a disease that makes her dizzy and causes her to have hallucinations when exposed to the sight of artistic masterpieces. The maniac lures her into Florence’s famous Uffizi museum, where he corners and kidnaps her. Although she manages to escape, her trauma perpetuates a series of alarming incidents that Anna cannot explain.
This movie is one of Argento’s well-crafted treasures. It contains his signature atmospheric dream-like charm with a gory and violent spin. It stars Asia Argento, Dario’s own daughter, as the lead who delivers a remarkable performance. The bland cinematography complements the film’s gloomy atmosphere.
Argento successfully builds up tension throughout the film, and its ambient music gives the audience an eerie vibe. It is the first Italian film to incorporate CGI animation, making its special effects out of the world. Besides its brilliant entertainment and production value, it is evident that Argento intended to evoke a grossly unsettling vibe through this film. The gratuitously sadistic rape and murder scenes certainly support this.
But this only increased viewers’ thrill while watching it. The protagonist is a compassionate character with immense depth, which is quite unlike the careless characters from Argento’s previous works. Overall, it is a thrilling, beautifully directed movie that everyone must watch.
A girl named Jennifer, who lives in a remote boarding school in Switzerland, witnesses a horrific murder one night while sleepwalking. With the help of a wheelchair-bound entomologist, she soon discovers an astonishing, unique ability that she possesses. She uses this to track the serial killer’s whereabouts as he continues murdering women around the school.
This Argento masterpiece marks Jennifer Connelly’s debut. Both she and Donald Pleasance blew the audience away with their outstanding performances. Connelly’s character adds an innocent spin to Argento’s otherwise trademark violent gore-fest. The film displays breathtaking cinematography amidst the beautiful Swiss Alps.
Claudio Simonetti’s electronic score takes viewers’ breath away with the haunting soundtrack composed with the 80s synthesizer and choral soprano vocals. The chimpanzee Inga adds a unique poignant spin, which is not usually found in his works. All in all, the dark fairytale-like atmosphere combined with surreal elements of horror showcase Argento’s craftsmanship and makes this beautiful movie worth watching.
A writer named Peter Neal arrives in Rome, only to discover that somebody is using his novels as inspiration and means to commit murders. As the death toll around the city increases, the police are left baffled. The writer is astonished and soon finds himself more closely associated with murder than he ever imagined.
After Argento’s experimentation with supernatural horror in the 70s, Tenebrae marks his return to the giallo subgenre. It is a bloody thriller filled with shocking plot twists and bursts of gory violence. It showcases an abundance of thrill and an incredible music score by Goblin.
This movie is filled with rhyming imagery that relates to exploring the dual nature of two active murders. It uses doubles, inversions, and reflections to portray this. Every major character has at least one double, and this theme extends to the locations, actions, and the film’s major events. Anthony Franciosa portrays a remarkable performance as the lead, and John Saxon’s minor supporting role adds an important flair.
Argento incorporates a moral subtext into the film, which explains the reasons for the killings. Much like mainstream 80s slashers, all the victims are murdered due to the killer’s perception of their “reprehensible” actions. Finally, its incredible finale is one of Argento’s greatest sequences accompanied by innovative methods of murder.
Deep Red (1975)
A psychic who can read people’s minds, picks up a murderer’s thoughts in the audience during a parapsychology conference. She eventually becomes the murderer’s victim. During the incident, a jazz pianist who lives in the same building happens to witness the entire thing. Disturbed and confused by what he saw, he partners together with a journalist and attempts to solve the crime. The duo unravels a web of shocking secrets.
This seminal psycho-thriller, directed by Dario Argento, portrays all his signature elements. It contains eccentric characterizations, outlandish plot twists and a series of Grand Guignol set pieces that revolutionize the genre. Using a wide-screen to create a bold, visual tapestry, this film thrives on its sound and images. This fantastic classic is a whirlwind of horror and suspense, accompanied by character development and violence.
With excellent dialogue and remarkable performances from the cast, Deep Red contains some of the most dubious images among Argento’s entire filmography. Moreover, it includes a rich subtext and breathtaking cinematography. Although its intriguing plot is slow-paced, viewers overlook this due to its coherence and riveting finale.
When an American ballerina transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany, she is faced with several unpleasant events. This includes the rest of the students behaving most peculiarly. She soon learns that the school is the front for a supernatural conspiracy. What will she do with this information?
Suspiria is the father of all gothic horror films and the masterpiece that secured Argento’s career as one of the greatest modern filmmakers. It displays instances of light, saturated colors, and visuals. Argento incorporates these in his films to explore the effects of art on life. They are contrasted with bold, primary colors during the violent murder scenes. The movie has a modern horror soundtrack by Goblin that evokes an eerie vibe, building up the suspense.
Its frenzied plot confuses the audience but simultaneously keeps them at the edge of their seat. Argento’s camera technique and in-camera special effects provide viewers a voyeuristic outlook on the murders in the movie. Furthermore, its spooky atmosphere gives it a typical 70s spin. Dario Argento reached a whole new level of cinematographic greatness with this masterpiece, which several filmmakers tried to replicate over the years.
Opera (Terror at the Opera) (1987)
A young soprano Betty gets her big break when the previous star of Verdi’s Macbeth production is run over by a car. As she accepts the offer, she gets involved in a series of murders committed by a masked assailant inside the opera house.
This modern-day giallo thriller stands as yet another lavish testament of the cinematic brilliance that is Dario Argento. It reminds viewers of a giallo take on Phantom of the Opera blended with all the glorious styles and colors one can expect from Argento. He makes terrific use of inventive camera techniques, recurring symbols, and a gothic atmosphere. The murders displayed are truly gruesome, and its storyline is exceptionally gripping.
He evokes a sense of strong suspense complemented by Claudio Simonetti’s gorgeous music score. Christina Marsillach portrays a brilliant performance as young Betty. The visuals are breathtaking, accompanied by several set props and Sergio Stivaletti’s special effects. With its several out-of-the-ordinary moments lingering in viewers’ minds long after it ends, Opera is truly a must-watch for all Argento fans.
The Birth with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
In Italy, American writer Sam Dalmas witnesses the attempted murder of an art gallery owner. Inspector Morosini is in charge of investigating the last three murders by the same serial killer. He asks Dalmas for help and takes his passport. Dalmas agrees to stay and help the inspector with the investigation.
When the killer threatens Dalmas and his girlfriend on the phone, the police overhear a strange sound on tape. Soon this killer, whose identity is still concealed, begins stalking the couple. Who is this mysterious killer, and what does he want? This giallo masterpiece serves as Dario Argento’s debut. It liberally draws from Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi.
Argento began incorporating his signature long-tracking shots, bloody murder, and shocking twists right from the start. Although his work has significantly improved and stabilized over time, this film immediately put him on the radar for sought after filmmakers. Viewers can see elements of this film that have been influenced by Hitchcock, like an American witnessing a murder in a foreign country.
It has a thrilling plot where the suspense is built up, making it an intriguing mystery. It never fails to slow down or make viewers feel anything less than excited at any point. Argento perfected his visual style with this film, which he later displayed in his works like Suspiria and Deep Red. The movie is wonderfully lit, switching effortlessly between dark and dreary visuals to shiny, happy imagery.
Besides Hitchcock, Argento has also been known to draw influence for his visual styles, from Italian horror veteran Mario Bava. Ennio Morricone provides a fantastic music score that ranges from catchy, repetitive melodies to haunting sounds of fear. Although the delivery of dialogue is not as great, the rest of the film’s elements more than make up for this. For a first-timer, Dario Argento truly blew viewers away with this timeless classic.
Demons (Demoni) (1985)
This demonic tale is based on the premise of art imitating life. It portrays a group of guests who are given a lunch invitation and asked to attend a movie screening. The theme of the movie turns out to be bringing naturalism to life. The guests are not prepared for the shocking turn of events that occur when they finally attend the screening.
This possession drama turned zombie flick is a remarkable piece of work from some of the greatest horror minds in Italian cinema. Produced and co-written by Dario Argento, it portrays everything good about cheesy B-grade movies. It gives viewers the thrill of a lifetime with its rollercoaster ride of gore, rock music, and special effects.
Some might think of it as a silly rendition of psychological horror from the 70s; nevertheless, it contains an out-of-the-world climax. Furthermore, it unapologetically executes a gothic undertone in an absurd manner. It has decent production value and an intelligently written script. Demons was created because of Argento’s desire to make a purely commercial film. The impact that it had without a coherent plot or character depth is truly commendable.
An American college student in Rome and his sister in New York investigate a series of deaths in both locations. As the siblings get deeper into their investigations, they discover a shocking truth about their respective homes.
Dario Argento goes old school by incorporating themes of witchcraft, ancient alchemy, and death in this film. The gothic, medieval atmosphere contrasted with the modern setting brings about a new change to the otherwise bloody 80s. It is appropriately spooky with multi-colored glowing lights. These are alternated with darkness and the edgy sound effects that break into sudden moments of silence.
Moreover, Keith Emerson’s organ music soundtrack perfectly complements the gothic mood. What viewers enjoy most about this film is that its plot is mostly self-contained and rarely refers to the real world. But this does not take away from its sense of realism in any way. Although Dario Argento abandoned the idea of a coherent storyline for this film, he still managed to create a masterpiece with an aesthetic set and ambient mood.
Two Evil Eyes (1990)
This dual anthology portrays two stories. The first one, titled The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, is about Jessica and her lover attempting to con her husband into giving them his money. When hypnosis doesn’t work, she shoots her husband, not knowing that evil spirits have already possessed him. The second one, called The Black Cat, portrays a tabloid photographer murdering his girlfriend’s cat.
When she is ready to leave him because of this, he lures her into an unexpected trap. Dario Argento collaborates with George Romero to craft this fantastic movie, based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It exhibits a perfect blend of horror, and social commentary merged into a brand new narrative.
Being staged by two of the greatest horror minds in western cinema, it creates a pleasant and thrilling experience for viewers. It displays remarkable visuals, exciting plot twists, and significant gore. Pino Donaggio pays homage to Poe with his eerie musical score. It constitutes a tasteful cinematographic experience by both Argento and Romero.
Argento primarily directed the second story of the two. Harvey Keitel, who plays the protagonist, showcases a remarkable performance. He incorporates his trademark dream sequence in the story adding his spin to it. There is great continuity between shots, and Argento exhibits his unique horror style that makes even Poe look tame.