Just how influential is cult movie icon Dario Argento, Italy’s reigning master of horror?
Well, let’s see. Argento has been blamed for spawning “torture porn,” Diablo Cody name-checked him in the indie sensation Juno, and John Landis cast him as a paramedic in Innocent Blood. Rumors that David Gordon Green, of 2008’s Pineapple Express, is remaking Argento’s Suspiria, with Natalie Portman, just won’t die, and the latest news from Cannes has George Romero — whose relationship with Argento goes back to Dawn of the Dead — negotiating to direct a 3-D remake of Deep Red.
Need more proof? French filmmaker Pascal Laugier dedicated the excruciating Martyrs to Argento, and Gaspar Noé offers “special thanks” in the credits of his brutal I Stand Alone. The Italian version of the popular video game Dead Space features Argento as the voice of Terrence Kyne. Metroid creator Yoshio Sakamoto cites Deep Red as one of the game’s creative influences. And U.K. artist Alida Sayer built a work around Suspiria‘s credit sequence. So, yeah, the man has his fans. And we haven’t even gotten to his most famous ones yet.
A tireless cheerleader for Italian genre directors of the seventies, Tarantino especially loves the surreally gory death of Jane McKerrow (Veronica Lario, now married to scandal-plagued Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi) in Tenebrae; he also consistently singles out Argento’s psychedelic gore-spattered fairy tale Suspiria.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1‘s showstopping slow-motion shot of a bullet barreling directly toward the lens in the Bride’s post-coma flashback is Tarantino’s tip of the hat to Argento’s Opera, while Death Proof pays extended homage to Argento’s directing debut: the scene in which Stuntman Mike surreptitiously photographs young women he intends to murder is patterned on The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, right down to an excerpt from Ennio Morricone’s original score. Kill Bill also appropriates a piece of Morricone’s score from Argento’s Cat o’ Nine Tails.
You know Billy, the super-creepy puppet behind which Jigsaw hides in Saw? Take a look at Deep Red and Four Flies on Grey Velvet and you’ll know all you need to know about how director-writer Wan and co-writer Leigh Whannell, co-creators of the biggest horror franchise of the aughts, came up with such a spooky idea.
Unlike some moviemakers, they give credit where it’s due. “A lot of people have said that Saw is similar in tone to Seven,” Wan says. “But the biggest influence wasn’t a recent Hollywood thriller at all — it was the work of Dario Argento from the seventies.”
Brian De Palma
Everyone thinks of Alfred Hitchcock as the inspiration for De Palma’s stylish thrillers. But there’s a sly voluptuousness to De Palma’s gender-bending killers and dreamlike tangles of memory, desire, and terror that owes less to the icy craftsman of Psycho and more to the psychological quagmires of so-called “Italian Hitchcock” Argento (who was, by odd coincidence, born just four days before De Palma).
Both the baroque murder set pieces and the sociopathic role-playing of De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, Body Double, and Femme Fatale fairly scream Argento. But it’s Raising Cain‘s final shocking twist that seals the deal: a woman bends over to pick up her child, revealing the killer standing directly behind her, a scene staged exactly like the corresponding moment at the end of Tenebrae.
Sean Cunningham’s 1980 Friday the 13th is often credited with spawning the American slasher movie, but the granddaddy of them all is actually Carpenter’s elegant Argento-influenced Halloween, in which gore consistently takes a backseat to visual style. And Carpenter’s delicate synthesizer score owes less to traditional “scary movie” stylings than it does to the compositions progressive rockers Goblin concocted for Deep Red and Suspiria.
Selick is the guy who actually directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and, more to the point, Coraline.
His animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s sublimely eerie children’s story borrows so many moves from the Argento playbook that it’s hard to know where to begin. But you can’t look at the Pink Palace, little Coraline’s unnerving new home, without thinking of the handsome, gloomy Manhattan apartment building of Inferno: both are filled with mysterious rooms, inexplicable passageways, and hidden doors to other worlds. One of Coraline’s trips to the parallel world of her button-eyed “other mother” is even lit in the candy-colored blues and pinks of Argento’s Snow White-influenced Suspiria.Read More