Eyes taped wide open with a row of sharp needles. Hatchet-wielding villains. A pit of corpses.
If there is one thing renowned writer/director Dario Argento is known for it is bold, nightmarish imagery. The Italian filmmaker is considered one of the masters of horror — whose work inspired John Carpenter’s “Halloween” among other terrifying classics — and beginning Friday, the Metrograph will honor him with a 12-film retrospective sure to frighten even the most unaffected viewer.
Presented in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, the series will run through Sept. 28 and highlight his most beloved films of the 1970s and 1980s — including his startling debut “The Bird with the Crystal Plummage,” the disturbing “Opera,” and his most revered classic “Suspiria,” (which will get an English-language reboot from director Luca Guadagnino in theaters in November).
Straddling the lines of slasher and supernatural horror throughout his decades-long filmography, Argento has never been the type of auteur to adhere to any horror standard. In fact, he made up his own rules when it came to the score (frequently rock music from bands like Motörhead), the grisly aesthetic (often blood red), and of course the horrifying images — including dismembered bodies, a maggot-infested face, and strangulation by pearl necklace. Though it’s easy to spot the influence of fellow master of horror Alfred Hitchcock, particularly in each narrative’s detailed mystery, Argento has more than established that he’s in a league of his own.
Here are some of the highlights from Dario Argento: 12 Film Retrospective of the Supreme Horror Stylist:
In Argento’s classic, he has an ingénue (Jessica Harper) at the center of her worst nightmare — at an acclaimed dance academy overrun with witches. As the body count of her classmates mysteriously rises, Suzy (Harper) soon discovers that she is their next target and must find a way to escape by any means necessary.
An opera starlet named Betty (Cristina Marsillach) is thrust in the middle of a cursed production of “Macbeth” and effectively becomes the object of an obsessed masked serial killer who captures her and tapes her eyes wide open with needles beneath her eyelids so that she can watch his every heinous act.
In this twisted film, famous horror novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) finds himself at the center of a real-life murder mystery when he discovers that his books have spawned a copycat killer determined to re-enact all the murders from some of his most frightening tales.
‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’
Argento’s demented debut follows another writer named Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) who thinks he’s on a relaxing vacation in Rome with his girlfriend when he witnesses a brutal attack on a woman by a menace in an art gallery. But as the mystery unravels, Sam — along with the audience — soon discovers that not everything is what it seems.
The flashbacks in this gruesome horror serve as clues to unlock the mystery that begins with a shadowy figure in a window stabbing another anonymous person to death and ends with decapitation and a fateful set of pearls. All the while, Marcus (David Hemmings), a pianist, and Gianna (Daria Nicolodi), an investigative journalist, find themselves in way over their heads as the killer targets them next.
In this dreadful terror, Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly, in one of her first film roles), who shares a telepathic connection with animals, is a young student at a secluded academy for girls where she is taunted and deemed “diabolic” when a series of murders suddenly take place upon her arrival. In efforts to try to solve the atrocities around her, and plot her own escape, Jennifer unknowingly puts herself right in the arms of the killer who’s already racked up a collection of rotting corpses.
If you go: The Dario Argento film retrospective runs from Friday though Sept. 28 at Metrograph. Go to metrograph.com for a full schedule of films and ticket information.