Tenebre is set in Rome, but we could be anywhere, because the story stays in hotel rooms, suburban streets and modernist buildings made of concrete and glass. There are artfully sculpted gardens of stone, water and trees. These locations lend themselves to the roving camera, and Argento likes to play the voyeuristic killer. The most famous scene has the camera drift slowly around the outside of a home, music blaring from a woman’s bedroom, focussing on the roof tiles, the walls, and the window slats, moving from room to room, as the killer takes two victims.
Thriller writer Peter Neal travels to Rome to market his latest book, Tenebrae (which means ‘darkness’), but he arrives to find a serial killer is mimicking in real life the murders in his book. The killer leaves notes under his hotel room door, and Neal gets drawn in to the killer’s game.
Argento knows films are inherently voyeuristic, and is aware of the criticism against him, and while the men die, the women do die in much more elaborate ways. He plays with our expectations, and has a protagonist who takes on the charges of misogyny directly. Giallo films usually have convoluted plots that lose me by the end, but this one makes sense. The set pieces are impressive, the story moves at a pace, the locations are fantastic, and the ending works — this is now one of my favourites.