13 films on official lists
3 Key Films:
Suspiria (1977) - 15 official lists
Profondo rosso / Deep Red (1975) - 6 official lists
L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo / The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) - 5 official lists
3 Key Auteurial Trademarks
- Almost exclusively works in the giallo and supernatural subgenres of horror.
- Intensely colourful and striking imagery combined with elaborate camerawork.
- A focus on suspenseful chases and protracted sadistic murder scenes.
1. Non ho sonno / Sleepless (2001) 273 checks, 0 official lists
The decline in quality towards the end of Argento's career is well-known, but there were three films in this 2000s period that I haven't watched. Sleepless was marketed as a return to form after his trashy Phantom of the Opera, and the first 20 minutes genuinely feels like it; a protracted stalk and slash sequence that isn't up there with his classic work, but is still a skilful series of scenes that consistently raise suspense and horror. Regrettably, the rest of the movie isn't nearly as good, with a few cool stylistic flourishes (mostly during the murder scenes), but a lot of bad acting and workmanlike directing that let it down.
2. Il cartaio / The Card Player (2004) 265 checks, 0 official lists
Do you remember that Diane Lane thriller Untraceable, where she has to stop a serial killer who's livestreaming his murders on the web? You probably don't either because you couldn't be bothered to see it or you did but forgot the details because it was rubbish. Anyway, The Card Player is very similar, but prefigures it by four years and isn't as good. It's like watching something from a totally different director: unthrilling suspense scenes, bad acting, and a central gimmick where the cops have to play online poker with the killer for the victim's lives, but it's totally botched because it's five card draw with no ante, reducing it to a childish game of pure luck, yet the film acts like there's massive amounts of skill involved. The only flashes of style I noticed were a sequence where the killer stalks the cop inside her house and a bit where Liam Hemsworth is walking through a garden filled with floating thistle seeds.
3. Ti piace Hitchcock? / Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005) 174 checks, 0 official lists
An improvement after The Card Player, this has a solid script that mixes together a lot of homages to classic Hitchcock films, which are fun to spot. It seems very remiscent of something Brian de Palma would make, except de Palma would probably have done it better. Argento though seems rather uninterested in the material, with the set pieces filmed in a competent but unambitious style. Like with the other films here there's a lot of bad acting, and unlike the other films here, the violence is toned down and brief. I might have rated this a bit higher, but it also suffers from a particularly unlikeable hero: a creepy and pretentious voyeur who spends a lot of his screentime whining at people.
4. La terza madre / Mother of Tears (2007) 780 checks, 1 official list Rewatch
I didn't like this the first time I saw it, but I'm inclined to appreciate it more on a revisit. I think this is the most ambitious of these four, and it seems to an extent Argento is trying to recreate the style of his classics but can't manage it. A scene where Asia Argento has to wade through a pool full of decayed corpses is a copy of the same scene with Jennifer Connelly in Phenomena, but the realisation in the original was so much better. At least the cinematography and lighting are above average throughout. It also has a few decent suspense scenes and some horrific murders, which make up for the lack of style but ramping up the gore and absurdity. Problems abound, however, including silly witches who look like a drunken gang of goths, a rushed and easy ending, and tacky CGI.