When it comes to giallo, there is no director more synonymous with the subgenre Dario Argento. With such classics as Suspiria, Deep Red, Tenebrae, Phenomena, and Inferno to his name, it’s hard to believe that the latter part of his career was filled with critical and audience flops like Dracula 3D, Giallo, and Mother of Tears.
After a decade-long hiatus, Argento returned to the director’s chair with the 2022 Shudder original Dark Glasses. Not only is it a return to directing for him, but it’s a return to form as he emulates his earlier giallo style. The final result is, well it’s something…
The film follows a sex worker in Rome named Diana (Illenia Pastorelli) who goes blind following an accident. All the while a serial killer is active in the city, and Diana teams up with a young orphan (from the same accident) and they join forces in order to both survive and try to find the killer.
As far as giallo goes, Dark Glasses has all the ingredients and tropes, which simultaneously work the film’s advantage and disadvantage. It has all the murder mystery, random intense violence, and intentional camp as any of Argento’s earlier films. And while it’s welcome to see that, it almost feels like it was made for a late 70’s/early 80’s audience.
Its pacing, its characters, even its dialogue feel like something that would have been made many years ago. So at no point does it ever feel fresh or new. It’s certainly a competently made giallo film as Argento clearly knows what he’s doing. He knows how to intrigue and how to use style to his advantage. But this is very much an example of style over substance.
A Legend Returns
However, in a strange way there’s a comforting notion to Argento coming out of his 10 year hiatus and giving us the exact kind of film that he made before. As the world grows more chaotic and we yearn more for nostalgia, it’s nice to get a creator that isn’t merely trying to pay homage to their old work, but rather is still creating work just like it.
Featuring strong performances from our lead, as well as Argento’s regular collaborator and daughter Asia, Dark Glasses almost feels like it could have been made decades earlier, much like Ti West’s House of the Devil. If you go in expecting something new or profound, you’ll likely find it dull or predictable.
But if you’re a fan of the style and of Argento’s previous work, he’s giving audiences exactly what they want from him. Dark Glasses gives us an unlikely pairing, with a decent mystery, and a story that feels progressive with its attitude towards sex workers, but in that sense it feels like Argento’s films were always that accepting of them.
What did you think of Dark Glasses? Let us know in the comments!