TENEBRAE (1982) Reviews and overview


Tenebrae – original title: Tenebre – is a 1982 Italian giallo horror thriller film written and directed by Dario Argento (Opera; Phenomena; Suspiria; Deep Red; et al). The movie stars Anthony Franciosa, Giuliano Gemma, Christian Borromeo and John Steiner.

Regarding the film’s focus on modern architecture, Dario Argento said: “Tenebre isn’t based in the present but about five years in the future. It was never meant to be a story about something that is happening now and it doesn’t contain one shot of typical tourist Rome.”


“The impulse had become irresistible. There was only one answer to the fury that tortured him. And so he committed his first act of murder. He had broken the most deep-rooted taboo and found not anxiety, not fear, but freedom. Every humiliation which stood in his way could be swept aside by the simple act of annihilation – murder.”

Visiting Rome on a promotional tour for his new novel, writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is pulled into a murder mystery as someone familiar with his work begins a series of killings.

While the police look into the crimes, Neal investigates on his own, aided by his beautiful assistant, Anne (Daria Nicolodi), and a tenacious young local named Gianni (Christian Borromeo). As the murderer brutally dispatches of other victims, Neal gets closer to discovering the psychopath’s identity…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“The truly impressive achievement of this movie is that it is not just a collection of outrageous set pieces, tied together by an off-the-wall plot; it is a compact, tightly structured unit that attacks the viewer’s comfort zone with all the precision of a deftly wielded scalpel.” Cinefantastique

“Wonderfully shot throughout and full of excellent and artistic set-piece murders, the surreal and scary flashbacks are all accompanied by a terrific score from long time Argento collaborators Goblin, credited here as Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli. Tenebrae is a master class in giallo mixing violent murders and a solid story with an inventiveness and artistic flair.” Love Horror

” …Tenebrae is written around each set-piece, and trying to make logical sense of the plot and the contrivances required of it is like following a ball of wool after it has been unravelled by a kitten, particularly the end double revelation of multiple killers. This is either something accepts or rejects as part and parcel of any Dario Argento film and as such Tenebrae is enjoyable enough on its own terms.” Moria

Tenebre is a riveting defense of auteur theory, ripe with self-reflexive discourse and various moral conflicts. It’s both a riveting horror film and an architect’s worst nightmare.” Slant

Tenebre is one of Dario Argento’s three strongest films and also one of his most fun to watch. It’s a ride of atmospheres, taking you from the silliness of the quarreling lesbians, to the starkness of Jane’s brutal murder, to the revelation of two killers, to the rawness of the climactic ending.” The Terror Trap

“By the end, the entire cast save one has undergone savage cutting, something which would have benefited the film itself, which is unpleasant even by contemporary horror standards. It does confirm Argento’s dedication to the technicalities of constructing images – Grand Guignol for L’Uomo Vogue, perhaps…” Time Out London

“You get a decent story and above-average cinematography along with all of the other things that make giallos great including inventive death scenes, beautiful women, red herrings, nudity, black gloves (Argento’s hands), great music and an amputation that you’ll never forget. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this one.” The Video Graveyard

Cast and characters:

Anthony Franciosa … Peter Neal
Christian Borromeo … Gianni
Mirella D’Angelo … Tilde
Veronica Lario … Jane McKerrow
Ania Pieroni … Elsa Manni
Eva Robins … Girl on Beach
Carola Stagnaro … Detective Altieri
John Steiner … Christiano Berti
Lara Wendel … Maria Alboretto
John Saxon … Bullmer
Daria Nicolodi … Anne
Giuliano Gemma … Detective Germani
Isabella Amadeo … Bullmer’s secretary
Mirella Banti … Marion
Ennio Girolami … Department Store Manager (as Enio Girolami)
Monica Maisani
Marino Masé … John
Fulvio Mingozzi … Alboretto, the porter
Giampaolo Saccarola … Coroner (as Gianpaolo Saccarola)
Ippolita Santarelli … Prostitute
Francesca Viscardi
Dario Argento … Narrator (Italian version) / Murderer’s Hands (voice) (uncredited)
Sean Barrett … Killer / Homeless Man / Coroner / News Anchor / Handyman (voice) (uncredited)
Lamberto Bava … Elevator Repairman #1 (uncredited)
David Graham … Detective Germani (voice) (uncredited)
Adrienne Posta … Various (voice) (uncredited)
Theresa Russell … Anne (voice) (uncredited)
Michele Soavi … Maria’s Boyfriend / Man Walking with Girl on Beach (uncredited)

Technical details:

101 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono | Stereo (Japan theatrical release)

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

Disclaimer: This website includes affiliate links to Amazon and as an Amazon Associate the owner of this website earns a very minuscule amount from qualifying purchases.