As someone who enjoys Dario Argento’s work typically (the work I’ve seen at least), it’s always exciting to see a new restoration of some of his work, especially those of the Giallo genre-type films. As someone who believes I’ve seen a lot of films and a lot of genre films, there was something specifically about Tenebrae that just missed the mark for me personally. While there are definitely some issues with the 4K transfer, which I will get into later, the movie itself is more slightly comedic and a little silly in terms of its horror/action/thriller than originally anticipated. Though there are certainly some redeemable moments throughout the film, mostly within its cast. To be clear though, Tenebrae is an absolutely gorgeous, stunning transfer that has some larger issues on the transfer itself, but not in picture quality.
The movie focuses on Peter Neal (Anthony Fanciosa) who is a wildly popular murder mystery novelist who travels to Italy to promote his latest work. However, he doesn’t find much peace in Italy as he’s continued to be harassed and bothered by his ex, Jane (Veronica Lario). However, he manages to escape his ex more often than not by getting lost with his new beau, Anne (Daria Nicoldi). Things take a turn for the most interesting, to say the least, when he joins the search for a serial killer who seems to be inspired by his work. This serial killer is slightly different than your average serial killer, too. He believes he’s protecting humanity by killing LGBTQ+ people and sex workers. This isn’t where his sick twisted games end though, after he kills his victims, he rips pages of Peter’s newest novel, Tenebrae, and stuffs them into the victims’ mouths and then mails Peter letters. Peter is joined by Gianni (Christian Borromeo) to help detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) get to the bottom of these grizzly murders.
When it comes to this restoration, the actual restoration itself is masterful. The main look and aesthetic of the film looks spotless, which, with a film like Tenebrae and Giallo films in general, feels weird. It should have some of that natural grain left on the transfer, but it seems like it has a little too much digital noise reduction (DNR). It doesn’t have the glossy look over it, it just looks like something that was natively shot in 4K today, versus a 42-year-old movie. While that is certainly a positive and will make for an excellent addition to one’s collection, it is a little weird to watch a gritty thriller that looks so smooth and clean. There are two versions of the Argento classic, one in its original Italian audio and one with the dubbed English version. In a very rare instance I decided to watch the film in the English dub, and it may have simply been one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. The dubbing at some point goes completely out of sync, and not just the dialogue but the sounds and outer music as well. It was bewildering and baffling to have this audio 15-20 seconds off.
Knowing there is a different version of this exact movie out there, the “deluxe” version to put it simply, I went to see if this was a known issue on this edition as well. What I could tell was that there was some mention of it not being synced briefly in select scenes, which wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the off sync was off by such a wide margin where people get murdered and 15 seconds later the audience hears the shrieks as the body is clearly now no longer part of the living. Hopefully Synapse acknowledges the issue and offers a replacement program, because I cannot imagine this is the slightly off audio I read about on the deluxe edition.
In terms of special features, they are plentiful and truly including audio commentaries by authors and critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman, an Argento expert in Thomas Rostock, and a third track by Maitland McDonagh. “Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo,” which is practically a feature-length documentary on the subject matter, “Being the Villain,” “Alternate Opening Credits Sequence,” and so much more make this standard edition of the Argento classic a must-have once the English dub is addressed and fixed, or if you only wish to watch Tenebrae in its original Italian.
Tenebrae Special Features:
- Audio commentary by authors and critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
- Audio commentary by Argento expert Thomas Rostock
- Audio commentary by Maitland McDonagh, author of Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento
- Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo, a feature-length documentary charting the genre from its beginnings to its influence on the modern slasher film, featuring interviews with Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi and more
- Being the Villain, a newly edited archival interview with actor John Steiner
- Out of the Shadows, an archival interview with Maitland McDonagh
- Voices of the Unsane, an archival featurette containing interviews with writer/director Dario Argento, actresses Daria Nicolodi and Eva Robins, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, composer Claudio Simonetti and assistant director Lamberto Bava
- Screaming Queen, an archival interview with Daria Nicolodi
- The Unsane World of Tenebrae, an archival interview with Dario Argento
- A Composition for Carnage, an archival interview with Claudio Simonetti
- Archival introduction by Daria Nicolodi
- International theatrical trailer
- Japanese “Shadow” theatrical trailer
- Alternate opening credits sequence
- “Unsane” end credits sequence
- Image galleries
Available on 4K UHD and Blu-ray September 26th, 2023.
For more information, head to the MVD Entertainment Group Tenebrae webpage.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.