Dark Glasses (Occhiali Neri)
Dir. Dario Argento (2022)
A blind woman and her guide hunt a killer through the darkness of Italy.
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Oh man, Argento is back! It feels like it’s been far more than a decade, and it has been if you’re only counting his good stuff. I cannot tell you, as a huge fan of his work, how excited I was to hear that this film was coming out this year, and yet… I waited until right now to watch it? What can I say, I’ve been busy, leave me alone. Thankfully, through the power of Shudder and some subtitles, I was able to watch the Master’s newest Italian horror joint in reverent awe at his ability to adapt to the times and create a modern horror thriller in a way that he had previously not shown he was able. Dark Glasses is an almost non-stop thrill ride through the streets of Rome with a likeable, newly blind prostitute as our guide.
Argento rarely shies away from blood, and this film is no exception. The opening sequence features one of the more brutal slit throats in film, a great gnarly sequence that introduces both the killer and his M.O. The score, while not performed by his constant collaborator Goblin, is clearly inspired by their more famous offerings, Arnaud Rebotini nailing the audio aesthetic to perfection (and, to be honest, a much more listenable way than Goblin, of whom I’m actually not a big fan.) Ilenia Pastorelli (Diana) is excellent, even if the character is a bit one-note, and her Chinese companion Chin (Andrea Zhang) is the Short Round to her Indy, helping to guide her sightlessly through the trials and tribulations that come with running from serial killers.
Dark Glasses is perhaps the least artistic film in Argento’s repertoire, but that actually works really well in the film’s favor. There is a certain aesthetic inherent within the Giallo genre, and that is largely absent from this film, but by avoiding the oppressively bright coloring and the tropey nonsense that often defines these films, Dark Glasses becomes an entry-level Giallo that deals more with themes and plot than it does set pieces and absurdity. While that may be a strike against the film for Argento purists, who need a little gibberish to enjoy their Italian horror, this one is a more Americanized, straight-forward slasher that was exactly what I’ve long felt was missing from Argento’s crazier films. Maybe that makes me a rube, and I’ll admit that I don’t appreciate the “art” of his films as some others do, but it’s Argento’s creativity and eye for groundbreaking shot selection that has always intrigued me about his work, and there’s plenty of that to be found in Dark Glasses as well.
It’s interesting to see what the critics think of this film because it’s very much an Argento film. No, it’s not as crazy and off-the-wall as some of his earlier work, but it’s a Giallo-infused slasher with the artistic flair toned down a little and one that doesn’t rely on the bizarre supernatural injections that Argento used in his more well-received films. In my opinion, what you’re seeing from the critics with this film is the way they would react if Deep Red or Suspiria were to be released today. Art is as subjective as it always has been, but there is an inescapability of the influence of public opinion on critique as well. It’s easy to be an outlier, to say that you hate Giallo in general or Argento specifically, even though the rest of the critical world often reveres his earlier films as masterpieces. It’s just as easy, in fact maybe easier, to revere his earlier films because, well, every critic says you should. What, then, if the critics turn against a work, stating that it’s lacking what the earlier works had? Is it actually lacking, or is it just as easy to make the case that the good old days, when viewed through a modern lens, would no longer, in fact, be the good old days? Is that the case with Dark Glasses? Maybe, maybe not… but maybe it’s just increasingly important, in the world of film critique, to remember that opinions are subjective, and whether people agree with you is not nearly as important as finding your own enjoyment in the art you appreciate.
Who this movie is for: Slasher fans, Giallo lovers, Pretensionless Argento stans
Bottom line: While certainly not as artistically sound as his earlier work, Dark Glasses is an incredibly watchable film from a horror master whose last few films have failed to find the footing of his earlier masterpieces. Is it an all-time great movie that everyone needs to see? Maybe not, but it’s fucking Argento, and you can only question the Godfather of Italian Horror so much. It’s an intriguing concept with a great cast, an excellent throwback score, and a German Shepherd. It’s absolutely worth a watch, and if you are an American slasher fan, you’re probably going to really enjoy this one. Stream it on Shudder as soon as you’re able, just ignore the naysayers