|release date||August 23 2005|
|starring||Liam Cunningham, Stefania Rocca, Claudio Santamaria, Fiore Argento|
Dario Argento is a scary guy. Period. This man can conjure up the most indelible imagery to grave the silver screen. I remember a long time ago, I rented the film “Deep Red Hatchet Murders”. Of course, I’m referring to the heavily cut version of his brilliant: “Profondo Rosso”. Now, the film I saw back then was really heavy on the dialogue but some of its imagery scared the Holy Crap out of me! That laughing wind-up doll towards the end, sent chills down my spine. The movie was kind of a mess, being that it was butchered by censors, but I still took some of it with me when I went to bed that night. And that music! The fantastic score by Goblin was something I’d never heard in a horror film. I wanted to know, and hear, more! Ever since, I’ve been a fan of this man’s work, seeing film after film, wanting to see what he would conjure up next. I sure hope, dear bloody-disgusting reader, that you own your copy of this man’s masterpiece: “Suspiria”. If you don’t, you suck. Stop reading this and go out and buy it! It is, bar none, the most intense fright fest this reporter has ever seen. It is the most visually arresting, sonically charged, dripping-with-maggots horror film ever made. I cannot recommend it enough. Anchor Bay Entertainment issued a triple DVD set a few years back that is a gift from above. As soon as I am done with this report, I’m going to watch it again! Dario Argento, unfortunately, has never matched this brilliant film. With every new entry, he went further and further down from the zenith he had reached with “Suspiria”. Some of his subsequent outings were interesting, but we all sensed that our favorite scary guy was losing ground. It is that thought that was going through my mind when I sat down to watch his latest effort: “The Card Player”.
There’s a serial killer on the loose that has Roman officials baffled. One of their officers, Anna (the beautiful Björk-like Stefania Rocca), receives an e-mail from this unknown assailant. He wants her to play a game of Internet Poker. The stakes are high: if they win four hands, he lets his victim go. But, with every hand that he wins, he cuts something off. After four wins, he “ends the game” for his victim. The police are witness to this as this maniac has a webcam pointed straight at his victim’s face. They call his bluff, but when the first abducted female, a British citizen, is killed “live”, the police know that this guy is serious. A British forensics specialist helps the Roman police to track down this clever killer before he abducts another female. But, this is a Dario Argento film. You know there will be plenty more to see…
As soon as I heard the opening music, I knew that I was amongst friends. Claudio Simonetti’s pounding techno score is kind of a modernized version of his score for Argento’s “Tenebre”. I was happy to see him back on board. He was a founding member of Goblin, and has scored Argento’s best work, including “Profondo Rosso” and “Suspiria” (with Goblin), “Tenebre”, “Phenomena”, and “Opera” (by himself). But, I knew I was in for a treat when I saw the name Sergio Stivaletti. He was responsible for the gruesome special effects in “Demons” 1 & 2, Argento’s “Opera”, and my favorite zombie film ever: “Dellamorte Dellamore”! With such faithful collaborators, how could Dario fail? Well, fail he did. This film was terrible! Well, I still had a great time, but for all the wrong reasons. Dario hasn’t lost his visual flair. This film is beautifully shot, with Argento’s trademark spinning camera tricks, POV shots, and extreme close-ups. His gloved hand appears again this time and is always fun to spot. (In any Dario Argento film, whenever you see a gloved hand grabbing a victim, or a knife, it is always his own. He once said that it was a cathartic thing for him and that besides, it was easier to do it himself than to explain it to some hand double. I told you he was scary…) Stivaletti’s FX work, while limited to close-up shots of cadavers, is extremely graphic, as one would expect, and generated moans from the audience. But one of the biggest problems this film has is that the script is ludicrous. Those of us with the slightest knowledge of how the Internet works see right through this rushed script. A little bit of research would have been greatly appreciated. And why do they spend all this time tracking this guy’s e-mail address? They spend a great deal of time discussing the possibility of him residing in the USA, “where technology is more advanced”. BUT THE WOMEN ARE ALL ABDUCTED IN ROME!! Don’t you think that kinda narrows it down for you? It did for me! But, the biggest problem with this film is the dialogue, which is absolutely laughable! Examples: “We can’t locate him! I think he’s behind a firewall!” “We have just discovered that he like (sic) to take risks!” “When I play, I have some kind of energy that goes down my arm, into my hand, and my hand decides what to do”. Well, my hand was slapping my knee! The entire audience was laughing it up throughout this film. But, it’s a Dario Argento film! You’re not supposed to laugh during a Dario Argento film! Well, that didn’t stop any of us. Honestly, this film is the best “accidental comedy” I’ve seen since “Showgirls” (Ouch!)! Dario Argento is credited with the script, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that he wrote it in Italian. There are two “writers” credited with “Dialogue”. I don’t know who these guys are but they deserve a good lynching from all of us Argento fans!
This evening was a complete letdown. I was expecting to be thrilled, to be stressed out of my wits, to have my blood pressure go up. Sadly, I experienced nothing of the sort. So, after the screening, I stopped by Krispy Kreme.
Maybe my blood pressure will go up after all…