DARIO ARGENTO PANICO (2024)
Release Date: 02/02/24 [Shudder / AMC+]
"Dario Argento wrote his most famous films inside hotels, completely isolating himself from external reality and immersing himself in his own nightmares. After many years, advised by his agent, he decides to go back to a hotel to finish his new screenplay and to be interviewed, filmed and followed by a crew that is shooting a film about him. Within this structure, a wellness center very far from the distressing places that characterize the cinema of the master of horror, Argento does not feel at ease and has difficulty both in finding the peace necessary to finish the screenplay, and in confiding the his secrets to the crew who are interviewing him. But the demon of cinema, who has never abandoned him, will once again push him to give himself totally."
OUR DOCUMENTARY REVIEW:
Known as the “Master of Thrill”, Italian filmmaker Dario Argento boasts a long and complex career. The Shudder original Dario Argento Panico documentary takes a look at highlights from Argento’s filmography by interviewing the Master of Horror himself along with other talking head contemporaries. For those that might only be familiar with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) or Suspiria (1977), Panico is a suitable overview with Argento himself acting as a grandfatherly host. For true Argento fans, Panico has all the substance of a featurette buried on disc 2 of the Opera collector’s edition Blu-ray.
Panico’s framing sequence gives the modern-day Argento the spotlight as he complains about the luxury hotel accommodations he has been provided with while writing his latest screenplay. Ah, the pain of the artist is on full view. Intercut are interviews with Guillermo del Toro, Nicolas Winding Refn, Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin fame), and select members of Argento’s family including his daughter, Asia.
His origins - being the son of Sicilian film producer and executive Salvatore Argento; working as a film critic for a local newspaper; his directorial debut in the giallo film genre - are all hacked away like the slashing of a throat while his cinematic accomplishments are bloodied about. Interviewees del Toro and Refn are obviously in awe of the man and offer nothing but praises – and all in clever, tweetable quotes, too. But c’mon, del Toro is always charming with his fanboy encyclopedic references and large smile. Conversely, Asia, his daughter, is not quite as complimentary. Yet her restraint is only overshadowed by her apathy. And Panico definitely needed more personal horror.
Directed by obvious fan Simone Scafidi, Panico keeps the recollections moving for a tight 98 minutes. Clips from more notable films are interspersed alongside some nice archival treasures that will truly sell the movie to fans. However, the modern-day Argento is nowhere near as interesting as that once-captured flamboyant youngster nor does he seem relatable in those stories from his former collaborators.
Composer Claudio Simonetti recollects Argento’s decision to use the prog-rock sounds of Goblin for a few of his movies, but most of that music goes unused for the duration. Admittedly, Panico would have been a helluva lot hipper with Goblin tracks backing the show.
Strangely enough, completely missing from this documentary was any reference to Jennifer Connelly, whose first leading role was in Argento’s Phenomena (1985, aka Creepers). With Ms Connelly eventually winning an Oscar, one would think that Argento would like to take a bow for his part in her career.
Then again, maybe not. Phenomena is rather, well, buggy.
Dario Argento Panico provides a totally-fine overview of the auteur’s work that pairs nicely with salt-cured prosciutto and a glass of Sangiovese chianti. But what would have worked spectacularly would have been if that Italian hotel was haunted… instead of Argento’s tired eyes.