Director – Dario Argento
Cast – Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cotaldi-Tassoni, Antonella Vitale, William McNamara, Barbara Cupisti, Antonino Iuorio
Release Year – 1987
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Often regarded as horror legend Dario Argento’s last “great” film, “Opera” brings Argento back to the horror scene after the success of his previous film, “Phenomena”. After tackling dance schools and animals, Argento finally brought us to the setting of one of Italy’s greatest accomplishments…the opera house. Full of incredible sets, as well as auditory and visceral gratification to the maximum, this is a film all horror fans are sure to enjoy.
“Opera” follows a young opperata named Betty who just inherited the principle/lead position after her predecessor suffered an unfortunate accident, after rehearsing the often “cursed“ Verdi‘s “Macbeth“. Immediately during her initial performance, Betty becomes the object of a deranged psychopath who begins murdering all of those around her, while binding and forcing her to watch the murders first hand then letting her go. As the killer gets closer and closer to making her his next victim, a plan is unleashed that catches the killer, and leads to horrendous results.
I really was sad to state that this film has so far been Argento’s last “great” film. After this he has put out mainly mediocre works, and although some of them are enjoyed fairly well by others, none of them have hit the horror scene as hard as his pre-”Opera” work. Enough of that though, let’s talk about how awesome “Opera” is. Right from the get-go Argento had me hooked with his awesome direction and of course…his great musical score. I really enjoyed that this film had a strong opera element because it gave us a much different score than we usually get. Sure we got bits of metal songs thrown in during the intense scenes, but for most of the film we had opera music that I found to be highly indulging. Opera for the most part has never been something I have really enjoyed, but the music is quite soothing at times and given this is a horror film…it was a nice contrast with the film’s content. Beautiful sets adorn this film’s high aesthetic value and were only exemplified by Argento’s amazing camera work, which is standard in all of his great films. It also doesn’t hurt that we get some very nice gore scenes and awesome kill sequences.
The pacing is perfect, thanks much to a storyline that compliments his direction. Each development was perfectly placed to keep the viewer engaged and sell the story. Personally, I felt that our lead protagonist, Betty, was not fully developed as a character, but I did not find it to be a big problem for the film and in fact did not even notice that until after the film was over. What I really liked about the story was the use of the killer, and his tactics in torturing Betty. Argento’s idea to have him keep needles under Betty’s eyes to FORCE her to watch the murder was a genius, GENIUS idea. I have personally not seen anything else like that in the horror realm, and believe it or not it came from experiences Argento had when he was upset at people turning away from a gruesome kill. He obviously could not do such a brutal thing in real life, so he did it on screen, and in excellent fashion.
Personally, I thought during the first ¾ of this film that this had to potential to be my favorite of Argento’s films because it was executed so well. Unfortunately, I felt this film lost it towards the end when the killer was revealed. It could be partly because we got more looks at the killer compared to Argento’s previous films where all we got of the killer before being revealed was simply his gloved hands. I do not think that is overly the case, and just feel that the ending sequences could have been written better. They are not bad, I was just expecting them to be as awesome as the rest of the film. Had the ending been a more positive experience I would have given this film a 9-rating, instead of an 8-rating. Nonetheless, an 8-rating in my eyes is pretty darn awesome.
Overall, this is an awesome film that I recommend to all horror fans and fans of Argento’s work. Sadly, this seems to as of now be his last “great” film, which actually gives it some stature. We get a great story, awesome direction, good gore, and the ever-awesome mystery element that Dario so expertly employs.