The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - DARK GLASSES | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - DARK GLASSES

dark glasses review
A blind prostitute is targeted by a killer.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Dario Argento

Starring: Ilenia Pastorelli, Xinyu Zhang, Asia Argento, Andrea Gherpelli, Mario Pirrello, Maria Rosaria Russo

dark glasses poster

I can't think of another great filmmaker who has experienced such a sharp decline as Dario Argento. You have to go back to 1987's Opera for his last great work, and to his 2005 TV movie Do You Like Hitchcock for his last remotely watchable effort. In the years since he's given us Mother of Tears (the almost blasphemously bad follow-up to Suspiria and Inferno), Giallo (an insult to the sub-genre it takes its title from) and Dracula 3D (one of the worst adaptations of Bram Stoker's novel ever filmed), so it's fair to say even his most ardent fans have written him off by this point.

dark glasses review

As such, it was with a heavy heart that I sat down to watch his latest, Dark Glasses. Pitched as a Rome-set giallo, if ever there was an opportunity for a return to form, this was it. But, of course, this won’t be a return to form, will it? Five minutes in, I began to wonder if maybe this was indeed a return to form. Argento opens his latest with an Antonioni-esque sequence that's the best thing he's constructed since Opera. Our heroine, prostitute Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli), is driving along when she notices people gathered in the streets staring at the sky through sheets of darkened material. Walking through a park, she realises it's an eclipse, but she looks at the sun and damages her eyes before donning a pair of shades. The sequence is filled with an eerie dread, and it harks back to the sense you get from Antonioni's films that his protagonists are living in a world of their own, and was likely conceived as an homage to L'Eclisse.

Oddly, it's not this incident that leaves Diana blinded, but a subsequent car crash she's involved in as she flees the mysterious driver of a white van who has been killing sex workers in the city. The other car involved in the collision contained a Chinese couple and their young son, Chin (Xinyu Zhang). With his father killed and his mother in a coma, Chin is sent to an orphanage. Diana is left blinded and returns home, acquiring a guide dog and a home helper played by Asia Argento. Through some clumsy storytelling, Diana and Chin end up living together, with the former carrying on her business with the kid under her roof and dressing wildly inappropriately in his company (though the kid's probably not complaining).

dark glasses review

The dynamic between Diana and Chin is essentially a half-baked rehash of that found in his second film, The Cat o' Nine Tails, in which Karl Malden played a blind man who teams up with his young niece to solve a series of murders. As goofy as the set-up is, there's a certain innocent charm to the found family of Diana, Chin and their faithful hound. It's just as well, because we spend a surprising amount of time in their company, rather than being treated to the sort of murder sequences we expect from a giallo.

Despite its Roman setting and its well-worn theme of women being brutally murdered by an unseen assailant, Dark Glasses doesn't fit neatly into the classification of giallo. That label generally implies a whodunit element, but Argento reveals the killer's identity early on and the film's second half evolves into a chase thriller. With our heroes fleeing the killer and leaving the city for the countryside, the film begins to resemble something closer to Ozploitation than classic Italian thrillers, right down to an ineptly staged sequence involving an attack by water snakes that will have viewers laughing unintentionally.

dark glasses review

It all leads to an underwhelming climax and an oddly melancholy final note that I suspect was meant to evoke sympathy but instead plays like a filmmaker's act of cruelty on a character of his creation. What's most surprising about Dark Glasses is that the most successful aspect of the film is its central character dynamic, which despite some dodgy acting by Pastorelli and Zhang, is quite engaging if hard to swallow. If you've been watching Argento's films over the last three decades it's no surprise that the staging of the violence is the film's weakest aspect, dogged by cheap looking effects and awkward editing. If you're a diehard Argento fan, you'll watch Dark Glasses for its dazzling opening, stick around for the charm of Diana and Chin, but leave with an all too predictable feeling that the Italian master's best days are well and truly behind him.

Dark Glasses
 is on Shudder from October 13th.

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