Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Dario Argento Panico, on Shudder

Until the 1990s indie boom personified by Tarantino, Dario Argento might have been the most recognizable director (first-and-foremost working behind the camera), since Alfred Hitchcock. That makes a good deal of sense, considering how he used Hitch as a career role-model, even helming and presenting his own anthology series. Even though his output since the late 1990s has been somewhat hit-or-miss, he is still the grandmaster of all horror filmmakers. Director Simone Scafidi gets the genre legend to sit down and take stock of his career in the documentary, Dario Argento Panico, which premieres Friday on Shudder.

Arguably, Argento was born to be a filmmaker, as the son of a fashion photographer and an Italian film studio executive. Obviously, his daughter Asia, who discusses her father at great length, was similarly born into the family business. In fact, most of the Argentos are present and accounted for, including his ex-wife Marisa Casale.

Scafidi takes a largely conventional approach, chronologically working through the major films of Argento’s oeuvre, eliciting commentary from the master and his friends and family along the way. Scafidi hints at a meta-concept, capturing Argento’s curmudgeonly grumbling in the swanky hotel his assistant checked him into, ostensibly to finish writing a screenplay. However, Argento quickly gives into the luxury and settles into Scafidi’s interviews.

Of course, that is all perfectly fine for Argento fans. Naturally, the film spends a good deal of time on the early Giallos,
Deep Red, Suspiria, and Inferno. Opera is singled out as probably his last great masterwork, but The Stendahl Syndrome gets credit as his first and probably best collaboration with his daughter Asia.

There is a lot of glossing over his later films, but it fittingly features several clips from
Do You Like Hitchcock, which is underrated and obviously reflects his Hitchcockian influences. We also see quite a bit of his The Phantom of the Opera, to illustrate the awkwardness of father directing daughter in some sexually charged scenes.

All of this solidly executed. Argento devotees will eat it up, especially the interviews with his apprentices-turned-horror-masters Michele Soavi, Lamberto Bava, and Luigi Cozzi. Gaspar Noe, who recently cast Argento as an actor, is another appropriate commentator. Frankly, it is kind of nice not seeing a lot of the usual talking head suspects for horror movie docs this time around.

Although there are no epiphanies,
Panico does more than enough to satisfy, especially as a streaming option. It moves along at respectable pace, giving viewers plenty of Argentos and Argento clips. Recommended for the considerable Argento fandom, Dario Argento Panico hits Shudder this Friday (2/2).