Hoopla Horrors: “Unsane” (1982; AKA “Tenebre”)

Available from Greenwich Library via Hoopla is the excellent suspense/slasher killer thriller Tenebre (1982), an English-Italian-Spanish coproduction that was briefly retitled Unsane when it came out in the US two years later. Hoopla  shows the edited US version but the film, directed by Dario Argento, the “Italian Hitchcock”, still packs a wallop!

In Italy to promote his new suspense novel, author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) discovers that a serial killer is on the loose in Rome.  The killer likes to slash pretty young women & stuff pages of Neal’s new book “Tenebre” into their mouths.  Meanwhile, as the body count rises, who is the woman who seems to be stalking Neal?

Suspects include Neal’s assistant Anne (Daria Nicolodi, dubbed by Theresa Russell), his agent Bullmer (an unusually likable John Saxon, who usually plays bad guys), Berti, a journalist with a overbearing religious fixation (John Steiner), and Neal’s ex wife Jane (Veronica Lario).  Things aren’t helped by a plodding police detective (60s Spaghetti Western star Giuliano Gemma).

To say more about this film would spoil the fun. Many of the killings are suspenseful and bloody, but Argento, who also wrote the screenplay, makes the audience see the victims, as well as the rest of the characters, depicted as distinct personalities.  That makes the impact of the killings even more powerful; you feel the horror the victims experience.  And yes, there’s humor spread out in and around the mayhem to lighten things up. (One example: Gemma’s cop character tells Neal he only drinks alcohol only when he’s on duty, and bums a drink off the author while getting a statement.)

Check out Unsane/Tenebre if you like watching stylish thrillers. Here’s the very intense -and bloody-  trailer for the film:

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