Director – Dario Argento
Cast – Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento, Piper Laurie, Frederic Forrest, Laura Johnson, Dominique Serrand, James Russo, Ian Belgrade, Brad Dourif, Hope Alexander-Willis, Isabell O’Connor
Release Year – 1993
Reviewed by John of the Dead
1993’s Trauma was Dario Argento’s first outright film of his own since 1987’s Opera, as I am not counting his 1990 collaboration with George A Romero, titled Two Evil Eyes, a film of his own. Trauma also marks a “milestone” in Argento’s career…his first American production. While this film’s American influence is somewhat obvious(the lack of a Goblin soundtrack) I still found this flick to be an enjoyable watch despite it not being as great as most of Argento’s earlier work.
Trauma follows David Parsons(Christopher Rydell), who one day comes across a young girl standing on the edge of a bridge as she contemplates suicide. He manages to coax her out of ending her life, and looks to help the troubled girl. Her name is Aura(Asia Argento), and she has escaped a mental facility where she was being treated for anorexia, but anorexia is soon to be the least of her problems. Both of her parents are soon killed during a séance at her home, and in the worst of ways…a slow decapitation. Left with nowhere to go, Aura teams with the ever-helpful David and they try and track down this vengeful killer, before the killer finds them.
I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. From what I have heard and read about Dario Argento’s post-Opera work, I was iffy on whether or not I would enjoy this film, but I am glad that I did. It is not nearly as great as his previous stuff but it still gave me what I came looking to see: cool kills, gore, a sweet and cunning killer, and that ever-awesome Argento twist at the end. So yeah, despite some flaws I was unaccustomed to in Argento’s flicks…I liked this one.
Story-wise this flick excels, even over its direction at times. The character work was OK, and Asia did an OK job selling her troubled character. My real joy from this film’s storyline though…is the killer. I loved how this killer killed each of the victims via decapitation, and in the most macabre of ways. We don’t get the usual ax or machete to the neck type decapitation, but a machine that comes with a loop of very strong wire that is wrapped around the person’s neck, then activated to tighten around the person’s neck until the decapitation is complete. Yes, it is AWESOME! What makes this even more awesome is like I said, EVERY kill from this awesome killer, minus one kill where the killer had to get creative in decapitating the victim, is via this type of decapitation, which is risky given it takes a bit of work to make it happen and is not as easy as just an ax to the back of the victim’s neck. Because this killer was willing to risk failure and potential exposure, it shows just how brash and potentially vengeful this killer is…and I love that. Sure enough, because this is Argento the twist at the end is a nice one, and goes further into the killer’s reasons behind the decapitations. As expected, there was a strong vengeance element behind the decapitations, which I found awesome and very, VERY fulfilling.
Argento’s direction is positive, and thankfully at this point in his career he was still giving us his great camerawork and execution. The kills were fun thanks to this, and the tension was high as well. Personally, I was a tad bit disappointed with the amount of gore in this film given EVERY kill is via decapitation. I was expecting a lot of great gore due to that notion PLUS the fact that this film’s SFX man is none other than Tom Savini himself, but we just got an OK amount of gore for the numerous decapitations this flick has to offer. The decap scenes were good, but with Savini on board I expected some iconic and very detailed/slow decapitations, but they just did not happen. It could be because this flick is an American production, and did not allow Argento the freedom he had in the Italian film industry.
Overall, this is a cool film that I recommend to fans of Argento giallo-esque Italian films. We get a sweet killer, positive direction, a cool story, and a nice twist that makes things all the more satisfying.