Trauma (Dario Argento)

Trauma (1993)
Running time: 111 mins.
Directed by: Dario Argento. Produced by:
Chris Beckman, David Pash.
Cast: Asia Argento, Christopher Rydell, Piper Laurie, James Russo, Brad Dourif, Laura Johnson, Frederic Forrest.

In pursuit of international success, Dario Argento leaves Italy for the USA, with middling results.

It’s the early 1990s. Genre cinema worldide is on the wane, the Italian film – dead. Dario Argento, while still in the business, hasn’t scored an outright hit since 1982’s TENEBRE. Yet the helmer of DEEP RED still knows how to choreograph attention-grabbing scenes and get amazing shots. He still has a legion of fans. What he (and his fellow filmmakers) has lost is the market. Home video and TV sales have supplanted the old distribution channels, cinemas in Italy have been closing, and the once lucrative European brand of horror has less and less demand from the interntational film market. So Argento looking to reinvent himself in the changing film panorama. Trying to leave Italy behind.

A seance on a dark and stormy night. A three branch smashing through the windowpane. TRAUMA features the full spectrum of familiar giallo tropes. As the story moves forward, Dario Argento keeps piling on supporting characters: one wearing a neck brace, another is in a wheelchair, another uses a walker, yet another has a grotesque moustache. Thirty minutes in, we’re still being introduced to characters, the nerdy bespectacled kid and his mum.

TRAUMA has plenty going for it: tight editing, strong intrigue and Christopher Rydell who turns out to be one of Argento’s more likeable protagonists. The good things don’t add up to greatness, though. While Raffaele Merte’s cinematography is suitably virtuoso (except lots of steadicam, something Raffaele Mertes also explored in another Argento production, THE SECT), Pino Donaggio score doesn’t work and Minneapolis makes for a dreary backdrop.

Dario Argento’s attempt to adapt his personal brand of Italian thriller to the changing film landscape may be his most underrated work.

Reviewed on March 13 2020 by Alex Bakshaev