Blu-ray Movie Review – Tenebrae (1984)

Directed by Dario Argento
Courtesy of Synapse Films
Original Year of Release: 1984
Blu-ray Release Date: September 13, 2016


When conversation turns to masters of horror, several names immediately come up: Romero, Fulci, Gordon Lewis, Carpenter, and many more. But one would be remiss to forget Dario Argento. His filmography reads like a Greatest Hits compilation, and most horror fans can name several of his films because they are so well known.

For me, TENEBRAE is one of his lesser known titles; I had heard it discussed every now and then over the years, but most focus when it came to Argento was usually on SUSPIRIA or DEEP RED. So when Synapse and CAV Distribution released the film on Blu-ray, I was excited to give it a look. And just as I had hoped, TENEBRAE is top-notch thriller with some unique killings and scads of fine suspense.

If you are not familiar with TENEBRAE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Synapse Films:

American mystery author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) comes to Italy to promote his newest novel, TENEBRAE. Unfortunately, a razor-wielding serial killer is on the loose, taunting Neal and murdering those around him in gruesome fashion just like the character in his novel. As the mystery surrounding the killings spirals out of control, Neal investigates the crimes on his own, leading to a mind-bending, genre-twisting conclusion that will leave you breathless!

Featuring an amazing synth-music score from Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli and Massimo Morante (formerly of Italian progressive-rock band, Goblin), this all-new TENEBRAE release was created from the original uncut camera negative. Also stars John Saxon (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Daria Nicolodi (Dario Argento’s PHENOMENA) and John Steiner (CALIGULA).

One of the best attributes of this film is the soundtrack. It is a solid testament to the time period of the film’s release, but it fits the movie surprisingly well. I wasn’t sure what to expect when the press release stated, “Featuring an amazing synth-music score…”, but I’m glad I wasn’t disappointed.

TENEBRAE is shot well, in Argento’s signature style, and the HD transfer looks great. I never saw a VHS or DVD copy of the film, so I do not have anything to compare the Blu-ray with, but the images are crisp and there’s barely a grainy shot anywhere in the movie.

Speaking of shots, there’s an interesting yet lengthy scene where the camera starts outside of an apartment and then slowly moves up and over the roof, only to descend to another window on the other side of the house. When I say lengthy, I mean, “Wow…this is taking forever!” I didn’t clock it, but the shot felt like it lasted several minutes. This might not sound bad, but wait until you’re sitting there, waiting for something to happen. This is the only detractor I found in the storyline.

And speaking of the plot, TENEBRAE offers an intriguing whodunit that keeps you guessing until the end. Argento is in fine form with this film, offering misdirection and clever deception to keep the viewer in a constant state of uncertainty. I enjoyed the big reveal, as I didn’t see it coming, nor did I guess the identity of the killer. I won’t give anything away, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

TENEBRAE is a big win for me, and it’s another excellent addition to the Synapse Films library. I highly recommend adding this one to your collection. In addition to the great HD picture and sound, the Blu-ray offers some slick Special Features that include:

• All-new Synapse Films supervised color correction and restoration of a 1080p scan from the original camera negative, presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1
• Dual English and Italian language options with newly-translated English subtitle tracks for both
• Audio commentary track featuring film critic and Argento scholar, Maitland McDonagh
• Rare high-definition 1080p English sequence insert shots, playable within the film via Seamless Branching
• Feature-length documentary, YELLOW FEVER: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GIALLO by Rising Productions, chronicling the Giallo film genre from its beginnings as early 20th century crime fiction, to its later influences on the modern slasher film genre
• Original UNSANE (U.S. version of TENEBRAE) end credits sequence
• Alternate opening credits sequence
• Theatrical trailers


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