Saturday, August 5, 2023

#2,921. Dark Glasses (2022) - Random Musings


The DVD for 2022’s Dark Glasses features a quote on the cover by CBR, who called the movie “A return to form for Master of Horror Dario Argento”.

Statements like this always make me nervous.

What, precisely, would mark a “return to form”? At his height, Argento was, indeed, a master of the genre. His 1970 movie Bird with the Crystal Plumage laid the groundwork for all giallos to follow, and he continued to wow us with Deep Red, Suspiria, and Phenomena, just to name a few.

Then, he started to cool a little before losing his touch entirely in the 21st century. I was not a fan of his 2005 TV movie Do You Like Hitchcock?, and found 2007’s Mother of Tears (the third entry in his Mothers trilogy after Suspiria and Inferno) positively dismal. And while I never really paid much attention to his more recent work (I did not see 2012’s Dracula 3D, and from what I hear, I didn’t miss much), I’ve been led to believe, from several reliable sources, that Dark Glasses is his first in a while that was worth checking out.

But would it be a return to form, as the quote says, a film on par with his ‘70s and ‘80s output, or is it just better when compared to Mother of Tears and Dracula 3D?

It’s kind of like the M. Night Shyamalan phenomenon. Shyamalan set the world on fire with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and, yes, I’ll throw The Village in there as well because I did like that film. But his downward trend started with Lady in the Water, went even quicker downhill with the ridiculous The Happening, and before you knew it, Shyamalan couldn’t do anything right (The Last Airbender and After Earth were roundly dismissed by audiences and critic alike). When he turned out The Visit in 2015, I got excited. Finally, a Shyamalan movie to celebrate!

I was cautious in my review of that film, saying the jury was still out if he was “back”, but in fairness I did call The Visit a “return to form” for Shyamalan. So, I guess my real question was, would Dark Glasses be Argento’s The Visit?

It very nearly is, and that alone makes it noteworthy.

After being pursued through the streets of Rome by a killer in a white van (a chase that caused her to crash into another vehicle), call girl Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) suffers a hemorrhage that robs her of her eyesight. Counseled and re-trained by therapist Rita (Asia Argento), who helps her deal with her new disability, Diana next seeks out young Chin (Xinyu Zhang), whose parents died in the same crash that cost her her vision.

At first reluctant to talk to the woman indirectly responsible for his parents’ deaths, Chin eventually warms up to Diana, to the point that he runs away from the orphanage to live with her.

But the killer has not forgotten Diana, and remains as determined as ever to finish her off once and for all.

From the start, Dark Glasses feels more like an ‘80s slasher than a classic giallo, in part because there’s never any mystery as to the killer’s identity. We know who it is almost immediately. And the kills are gory enough to fit neatly into the slasher subgenre, especially the first victim, whose garroted throat splits further apart with each breath she takes.

Argento also succeeds in generating tension throughout. A showdown between two policemen and the killer, who surprises them on a darkened street in front of Diana’s house, is fairly intense, as is the film’s extended finale, when Diana and Chin are running for their lives at night through a forest (and, keeping with classic Italian WTF cinema - a la the tarantulas in The Beyond - the two encounter one of nature’s gnarliest creatures in a bizarre, cringe-inducing scene).

The problem I had with Dark Glasses is the end of the final act. The chase through the woods drags on far too long, and especially baffling is why the killer, who up to that point took a “kill first, ask questions later” approach to his victims, suddenly unleashes an “evil genius” style exposition, prolonging a sequence that, at any other point in the movie, would have been over within seconds. Not only does it seem out of place with the killer’s modus operandi, it also mutes his effectiveness (he generated real dread whenever he turned up prior).

On the whole, though, Dark Glasses did impress me. So, if The Visit was Shyamalan’s return to form, I guess Dark Glasses, for the time being, should hold that same distinction for Argento.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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