Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is an American writer who is in Italy to promote his most recent novel. The book “Tenebrae” is a murder mystery. With him is his assistant, Anne (Daria Nicolodi) and his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon). After doing a talk show interview with Christiano Berti (John Steiner), Peter, Anne and a young Italian assistant assigned to help, Gianni (Christian Borromeo), retire to the hotel suite.
Waiting in the suite are Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carola Stagmarp). Germani tells Peter that a shoplifter named Elsa was killed by a straight razor, the same method Peter uses in his novel. In addition, stuffed in her mouth were pages from the novel. Detective Germani hands Peter a note that was pushed under the door. The note is a passage from Peter’s book.
Peter shows Germani his carry-on bag. Everything inside of it was broken or shredded. Peter thinks that his ex-girlfriend, Jane (Veronica Lario) may have done it before he left America. Then he finds that she followed him to Italy.
While the detectives are still there, Peter gets a call from the killer. The killer appears to be a fan of Peter’s writing. Now Peter is in the middle of a serial killer’s fantasy. The killings continue. This time two lesbians are killed. Both again with a straight razor. Peter has his own suspicions and believes he may know who the killer is. But things begin to change when the killer is killed but more murders happen. This time with an axe and the killings are getting closer to Peter’s circle of friends.
“Tenebrae” was released in 1982 and was directed by Dario Argento. It is an Italian mystery thriller and a giallo. The film contains some of Argento’s signature aspects, the killer’s hands in black leather gloves, a victim crashing through a window and a character recalling various memories that end up being clues.
It is a very artistic film. The cinematography is clean and fresh but displayed in front of a background of blood and gore that gives the movie a stark and sinister feel. The story has a few subplots woven in, but they aren’t as confusing as many other gialli and in some cases they add to the overall plot. There is a lot of violence in the film, which is typical for Italian gialli and Argento in particular. It is well done, suspenseful and quite fascinating. Overall, it was highly recommendable.
At a few points throughout the film, the killer has flashbacks of a woman in red shoes. The girl in the flashbacks was played by a transgender actor.
Tenebrae is Latin for darkness. It also refers to a church service observed during part of Holy Week. The service commemorates the death of Christ.