On Saturday, October 5, 2013, Italian prog legends Goblin will perform at the Underground Arts for the Philadelphia leg of their US tour. Horror fans, Argentophiles, and cult soundtrack collectors alike are abuzz at the prospect of seeing the band in their first stateside tour, and Cinedelphia is no different. In honor of the band and their contributions to the film industry, Cinedelphia writers will be offering a look at their favorite Goblin-scored films.
Tenebre follows the story of an American writer, Peter Neal (David Hemmings), as he’s pursued through Rome by a killer obsessed with ridding the world of deviance. Neal quickly becomes the focal point of the killer’s attention due to the violent nature of Neal’s novels, and as a result the writer decides to use the detective skills he’s given to so many of his characters to aid police in discovering the identity of his pursuer to put an end to the frequent and bloody murders.
When it was released in 1982, Tenebre represented something of a return to form for Dario Argento. His previous two films Suspiria and Inferno found the director consciously shedding the trappings of his early work to explore alternate forms of terror; in Suspiria, this meant a departure from the psychosis of the black-gloved giallo villain for the supernatural; and in Inferno, this meant a shift in prog partners from collaborators Goblin to Emerson, Lake, & Palmer co-founder Keith Emerson. Tenebre undid every last one of these changes, as if Argento suddenly decided to hit the reset button and return to what made his original films so vital. Back were the writer protagonist of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and the Goblin-infused score of Deep Red; so in that sense, Tenebre almost appeared to be a conscious attempt at Argento offering a greatest hits of his giallo period.
What separates Tenebre from Argento’s early gialli is another conscious shift on the part of the director, although, in this case instead of regressing as he did in the presentation, it’s a progressive shift in thematic elements. Whereas Argento’s early films hinted at alternative forms of sexuality, Tenebre fully embraces them. By offering a killer that outwardly attacked deviance, Argento was able to craft a film that revels in it. A late third-act shift in perspective even calls into question the viewer’s own position by challenging the very notion of “normal sexual behavior” through the use of character identification.
Not so much a simple greatest hits, Tenebre ultimately represented a talented director returning to earlier ideas as an opportunity to expand upon them and make an even more lurid stab at greatness.