This weekend, Italian horror director Dario Argento’s 1980 film Inferno screened at Music Box as part of the theater’s midnight showings, providing me the perfect opportunity to dive into his work. Equally influenced by the likes of Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edgar Allen Poe—and in turn a direct influence on Brian de Palma, John Carpenter, and Quentin Tarantino—Argento’s work is a unique mix of class and crass, marked by its elegant mise-en-scene as well as its fixation on death, gore, and sex. He primarily works in the style of giallo, an Italian offshoot of the thriller genre that almost exclusively involves murder, serial killers, amateur detectives who are often suspected of committing the murders themselves, and femme fatales, while incorporating themes of paranoia, sexual obsession, and mistaken identities.
He’s not for every taste—many critics have written him off as a mere stylist with a flair for flamboyance—but he appeals to those cineastes with a certain appetite for excess. Nobody makes films quite like Argento, and I find his singularity fascinating, even when he’s at his most tawdry. Catch my five favorite after the jump.