(1977) [second viewing, first in at least seven years]
If there was ever a movie with a certain undefineable genius about it, this is the one. The first time I saw this, I didn't notice the myriad flaws it possesses -- I was too busy being creeped the fuck out. This time, I was able to analyze the film a bit more closely... and Lord, does it have problems. It's senseless and chaotic by design, but it often strays too far in that direction and feels out-and-out stupid. The acting is indifferent (a problem compounded by the de rigeur
post-dubbing), the screenplay is a half-formed mess and there's a lot of stuff that seems to be in the film just because Argento thought it would look cool. (Why, for instance, would a ballet academy have a barbed-wire pit in the attic?) Funny thing, though... while I was thinking all of these things, I was still also white-knuckled and holding my breath even though I knew everything that was going to happen next. Indeed, part of the film's success is that logic holds no sway -- it exists in the realm of the mythic, not the realistic. Argento's eye for visuals is a big plus as well, for the rich primary colors and near-theatrical lighting give the film the appearance of a sadistic fairy tale come to gruesome life. It's the kind of movie where you find yourself actually saying, "Well, maybe there's a reason that a ballet academy would have a barbed-wire pit..."
Grade: A- (downgraded from an A)