Dark Glasses - FrightFest UK Premiere
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Ilenia Pastorelli, Asia Argento, Andrea Gherpelli, Andrea Zhang
Written by: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Produced by: Conchita Airoldi, Brahim Chioua, Noémie Devide, Laurentina Guidotti, Vincent Maraval
Cinematography by: Matteo Cocoa
Original Score by: Arnaud Rebotini
After a car crash leaves sex worker Diana blind and young Chin an orphan, together they must face the incandescent wrath of the snubbed murderer who continues to relentlessly stalk them.
For a filmmaker as revered as the great Dario Argento to somehow replicate anywhere near the cult success of his classics like 'Deep Red', 'Suspiria' or 'Opera', it would take something close to a miracle and sadly there is no act of God at work here in 'Dark Glasses'. The film has its moments but it mostly feels like Argento is going through the motions a bit.
It has a striking opening sequence in which we see a call girl leaving her client at night time only to be attacked by a shadowy figure who leaves her neck sliced open and gushing with blood. It's a brutal throwback to Argento's iconic style from the 70s and 80s and does a great job of setting up the plot of the film. Then we're introduced to our protagonist Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) a high end sex worker who is the next victim of the attacker. Thankfully she manages to speed off in her car just in time but the attacker follows in his white van. Diana ends up crashing her car and killing two other people in the accident. She is left blind.
Chin, the young boy who was left orphaned by the accident, is taken into care and Diana visits him in an attempt to apologise and offload her own guilt. After some initial tension, the two eventually bond and Diana begins to learn how to deal with life without her sight, with the help of her new carer Rita (Asia Argento) and an assistance dog called Nerea. Diana is a vehemently strong willed woman. Fearless is the wrong word but she is definitely tenacious and independent. But the mysterious attacker is hell bent on finishing the job he started so Diana and Chin must try to evade another attack before it's too late.
While Argento absolutely applies many of his anticipated traits in 'Dark Glasses' the film never truly evokes the same energy or substance that we've seen from the director in the past. It's been ten years since Argento last directed a feature film and perhaps the time off has affected him. I don't want to be too critical as I still enjoyed the film, but lots of scenes felt extremely random (the water snakes?) and the editing felt unfinished. There's a real sense that the film was rushed through and maybe because of budget or time constraints, not as much care was put into trying to capture the best shot for each scene.
The makeup effects are stellar and Argento is clearly obsessed with blood pulsating from a characters mouth and covering their face like a crimsons mask. It happens numerous times in the film and it's very satisfying. The tension is built up really well in the beginning but simmers out half way through when we see the attacker in plain sight leaving zero intrigue surrounding the man's motives. His identity isn't the crux of the film however I would've liked a little more mystery surrounding him. And when we finally do get a motive it's not exactly the most believable excuse to want to kill someone. The focus on the film is about Diana and her ability to overcome her disability. It also touches on her new found maternal instincts which presumably were non existent before the accident. Argento films haven't always made sense in the past of course but when they lack the aesthetic style and atmospheric visuals we're used to, then it becomes more difficult to accept all the silliness.
Arnaud Rebotini's score is glorious, adding just the right amount of pizzazz when needed, particularly during the chase and attack scenes. While it's not a classic by any stretch of the imagination 'Dark Glasses' isn't without merit and fans of the sub-genre will appreciate Argento's little touches.
Argento classics are at such an exceptional high standard that anything that doesn't manage to meet that standard will sadly always be looked as being less than but 'Dark Glasses' has some nice shots and sequences but it just doesn't build anything substantial that makes the ending worth waiting for.
- Gavin Logan
'Dark Glasses' received its UK Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 27th and will be available to stream on Shudder on October 13th.