Dark Glasses (2022)
One of the biggest unanswered questions in the horror genre is what happened to Dario Argento? In the seventies and eighties Argento was one of the leading and visionary directors in the world with such films as Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebre, Opera and others. Since that time though the Argento of old vanished like Claude Rains as Dr. Jack Griffin. It has been flop after flop, disappointment after disappointment since he directed a segment of Two Evil Eyes in 1990. Films like The Stendhal Syndrome, Sleepless, The Card Player and perhaps worst of all, 2012’s Dracula 3D, have sent the once influential Argento into an unrelenting downward spiral.
With news that Argento was directing his first movie in 12 years fans were hoping that the Giallo master would return to his former glory with Occhiali neri (Dark Glasses). Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. It is light years better than Dracula 3D but Dark Glasses only gives us brief glimpses of Argento’s former genius.
The film begins encouragingly enough with all of those great Giallo trademarks. A mysterious black-gloved killer is on the loose, targeting prostitutes and mystifying the local police. Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli ) is one such escort who is attacked by the psychopath and narrowly escapes with her life.
The resulting accident blinds Diana. If that wasn’t bad enough, Diana must live with the fact that the accident put a young boy’s mother in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Diana desperately tries to make amends with the boy (Andrea Zhang) who later flees his temporary care-givers, guilts his way into living with Diana and becomes her guide when she doesn’t have her dog with her. Argento’s daughter Asia plays Rita, a social worker who also helps Diana adjusted to the sighted world around her, even helping her find and bond with that faithful guide dog.
So far, so good, right?
Once the set-up is in place and Diana, the boy are on the run from the vengeful killer though, Dark Glasses corkscrews out of control into complete craziness…and not in a good way. There are water snakes, Lassie moments, eclipses and all sorts of other nonsense which drives this promising train right off the tracks and off a cliff. Everything Argento worked so hard to set-up in the first half of the film is obliterated.
The alluring and sultry Ilenia Pastorelli, who first entered into the public eye as first a model and then a houseguest on Italy’s version of Big Brother, is both vulnerable and tenacious as the sharp-tongued Diana and Andrea Zhang is great as the quick-witted boy who could probably sell ice cubes to Canadians but the characters they play as just outlines who don’t really grow, change or mature at all through their experiences. Pastorelli and Zhang seemingly had a lot more to give but the confines of their roles prevented any of that.
While there are some cool brief Argento moments here and there, they are too few and far between. Dark Glasses is a step up from Dracula 3D but is nowhere at all in the league of Argento’s past accomplishments. In fact, those flashes of brilliance make it even harder to accept that sadly the Giallo pioneer’s best days are truly behind him.
Watch on: Theatres, dark side of the internet, Shudder later this year.
All My Friends Hate Me (2021)
As the late, great Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan used to say: “A friend in need is a pest.” At least that’s the feeling Pete (Tom Stourton) has when he agrees to unite with his college friends to celebrate his birthday. Pete was the party-hardy, leader of the group back in the day so he is thrown off balance when his pals pick up a stranger at a local pub, Harry (Demri-Burns), who seems to have elbowed his way in as the group’s new ringleader.
As the weekend progresses, Pete cannot shake the feeling that his friends are being turned against him and that might be because of Harry’s influence and troublesome shenanigans. Throughout the film the paranoia Pete is experiencing grows and grows until a breaking point is reached.
Although classified as a “comedy horror” film, All My Friends Hate Me is more of a thriller that skirts the edge of horror. Director Andrew Gaynord and writers Tom Palmer and Stourton himself carefully and expertly regulate the tone and temperature raising it higher and higher until things boil over because of the little sparks, little fires that erupt here and there. All My Friends Hate Me would be the perfect lead-in in a double feature with 1994’s brilliant Shallow Grave.
Watch on: VoD, Amazon Prime Video, VoD services, The dark side of the internet.
Tales From The Other Side (2022)
I am a big sucker for horror anthology films and TV shows like Creepshow, Tales from The Darkside, The Twilight Zone, etc. Tales From The Other Side is not one of those films. It probably could have been if the stories themselves were better and the film had a much bigger budget.
Side’s wrap-around segment concerns three trick-or-treaters who find themselves in the ominous home of their town’s most infamous resident, a sinister Roslyn Gentle as ‘Scary Mary’.
Mary entertains the brats with a group of uninspired, ineffectual tales which include a creepy sideshow attraction, a stolen crystal ball, an asylum inmate who claims God speaks to him, art to die for and a really, really badly animated battle between Krampus and a Christmas elf. The only skillful, slick segment is Flicker, directed and written by Scotty Baker. It is about an editor who is hired by a funeral home to produce tributes for its deceased clients. Flicker is short, concise and more like Tales from the Crypt rather than a bad episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Most of the stories in Tales From The Other Side are, well, just not scary at all. They are certainly spooky enough for kids and tweens who are creeped out by Goosebumps but they would not freak out or even entertain any adult horror fan.
Watch on: iTunes, dark side of the internet.