Playfully Mocking Giallo

Horror filmmaker Dario Argento satirizes the Italian genre he helped make famous while lashing back at critics in 1982’s Tenebrae. Technically a giallo, Tenebrae often resembles a swaggering Hitchcock tackling the slasher genre with playful overtones. Which sounds fun at first blush but has nothing truly going on beyond its mocking meta-commentary and wonderfully staged murders. Backed with a pulsing Goblin score and some of Argento’s most lavish directorial tactics, Tenebrae is a reactionary creation as the director begins moving away from supernatural themes.

One of Argento’s bloodiest movies, the grisly suspense thriller stars Anthony Franciosa (Death Wish II) as an American author visiting Rome. A razor-slashing psycho is on the loose, terrorizing anyone connected to the new book. Often considered one of Argento’s stronger efforts, Tenebrae co-stars John Saxon (Enter the Dragon), Daria Nicolodi (Phenomena), and John Steiner (Caligula).

Tenebrae is a reactionary creation for Argento as he begins moving away from supernatural themes

Returning to the giallo genre that made his talents known, Argento assimilates the growing trends seen in American slashers for his own ends. Emulating the first-person POV made famous by John Carpenter in Halloween, Tenebrae is replete with ridiculously bloody and gory set pieces as the mysterious killer picks off a string of hapless victims.

American mystery novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) visits Rome promoting his new thriller “Tenebrae” about a serial killer. Almost immediately he is thrown for a loop when the police inform him of a murder victim being found with pages of the novel stuffed in her mouth. The mystery grows as Peter receives a letter from the killer, starting Peter off on his own investigation into the murders.

Tenebrae isn’t one of my favorite Argento masterpieces. The brilliantly stylish set pieces often feel like the Italian director mocking slashers, making fun of the genre at his own expense. There are clear parallels between Peter Neal and Argento, poking back at critics through the film’s characters like a snooty journalist.


Oversaturated primary colors and stark cinematography dominate Tenebrae, presented here in clean beauty on 4K UHD. The noisy scanner textures found on earlier transfers is largely gone, replaced by film-like grain in softer but more authentic flavor. Shown at its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Tenebrae shows mild gains in clarity and overall detail. The most striking difference is the wonderful HDR pass, capturing fluid color depth in a brilliant Dolby Vision encode.

A high-quality 4K restoration from the camera negative, Synapse Films has given Argento’s Tenebrae its best-looking release by far. The English (101:03) and Italian (101:01) versions are spread over a single triple-layer UHD, perfectly rendered by HEVC. There’s little room left for improvement given the nigh perfect color correction with its strong contrast and lovely shadow delineation.


Bold Italian and English audio arrive in crisp 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtracks. Members of Goblin produce yet another funky score for the thriller, one of Tenebrae’s true highlights. Both energetic tracks are dubs offering flawless dialogue reproduction.

There’s a full, rich sound quality with nice dynamics and powerful low end. The stereo soundstage includes decent separation and layered effects.

Optional English subtitles play in a white font.


Synapse Films reissues their out-of-print limited edition of Tenebrae in a regular edition, dropping the second UHD containing the “Unsane” cut of the film but keeping the remaining two discs. So this regular edition is a two-disc affair with a single UHD and single Blu-ray. All bonus content between the UHD and BD are identical. It arrives on UHD with a slipcover.

It should be noted Arrow UK put out their own version of Tenebrae on UHD with virtually identical bonus content. The difference being slightly different transfers, especially notable during the opening credits for the English version. The Synapse Films’ effort looks better thanks to different elements being used during that portion.

Audio commentary by authors and critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman

Audio commentary by Argento expert Thomas Rostock

Audio commentary by Maitland McDonagh, author of Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento

Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo (89:24 in HD) – A feature-length documentary charting the genre from its beginnings to its influence on the modern slasher film, featuring interviews with Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi and more.

Being the Villain (16:22 in HD) – A newly edited archival interview with actor John Steiner

Out of the Shadows (12:20 in HD) – An archival interview with Maitland McDonagh

Voices of the Unsane (17:16 in SD) – An archival featurette containing interviews with writer/director Dario Argento, actresses Daria Nicolodi and Eva Robins, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, composer Claudio Simonetti and assistant director Lamberto Bava

Screaming Queen (16:04 in SD) – An archival interview with Daria Nicolodi

The Unsane World of Tenebrae (15:13 in SD) – An archival interview with Dario Argento

A Composition for Carnage (10:04 in HD) – An archival interview with Claudio Simonetti

Archival introduction by Daria Nicolodi (00:13 in HD)

International theatrical trailer (03:16 in SD)

Japanese “Shadow” theatrical trailer (02:11 in SD)

Alternate opening credits sequence (02:14 in HD)

“Unsane” end credits sequence (01:51 in HD)

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Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

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Dario Argento’s most garish giallo mocks the genre and his critics in this stylish but ultimately unwieldy thriller

User Review
3.67 (3 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 36 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD:

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