I’ve already talked a lot about Dario Argento on this blog. So far I’ve talked about Suspiria, Inferno, and The Mother of Tears. Well, here we are, back with Argento, one of the masters of the horror genre with his 1987 film Opera. When it was first released for U.S. audiences, it was heavily cut, and therefore never complete. Luckily, I’ve seen the uncut version and I have quite a bit to say, both bad and good.
MacBeth has always been a cursed show, but never before seen like this. After the original choice for Lady MacBeth is injured in adar accident, the role then goes to newcomer Betty (Cristina Marsillach). Her first performance is met with a standing ovation, but also attracts the attention of an obsessive and violent stalker. Soon after the performance she is forced to watch the masked man kill one of her friends. In the days to come this happens again and again, giving her all the more reason to find out who the murderer is and stop him before she becomes the victim.
It seems that Argento movies always have their fair share of really great things and really terrible things. This film is case and point to my theory. In that same way, he’s kind of lucky that he’s so good at creating memorable scenes of horror, because there are so many things in this movie that have the potential to drag this movie down. The biggest problem, since it happens throughout the entire movie is the acting. This is a problem throughout Argento’s filmography, and this doesn’t have the worst acting (Suspiria), but it can be pretty laughable when the scene is meant to be dead serious.
The “joy” that is found in Opera are the fantastic murder sequences. These scenes are some of the best that you will ever see in horror along with Psycho and the original Saw. I find it remarkable how the needles that are taped under Betty’s eyes aren’t recognized as a major symbol in the horror genre. The film also shows that Argento will not hold back in his violence. The first killing that is shown is memorable, unexpected, and wonderfully gory. It was so good that I had to rewind the scene a couple of times just to prolong my giddy laughter. The scene that really stands above the rest in the movie features a bullet being shown shooting through a peep hole and into the victims head, all of it in slow motion for maximum appreciation. And what would these murder scenes be if they weren’t accompanied by some unexpected 80s metal music? There are some against this choice of soundtrack, but I think it’s a great contrast from the opera music heard throughout.
The set design also looks fantastic, especially the opera house, where a lot of the action takes place. The hall and the backstage design is both beautiful and spot on. Even Betty’s apartment has this old Italian style that you can’t really find in America. I wouldn’t be able to fully take all of these sights in if it weren’t for Argento’s stalking camera work. The camera seems to have a life of its own as it chases, stalks, and even flies throughout the opera house and the various apartments.
The problem that almost ruins the entire movie is its godforsaken ending. I can honestly say that this is one of, if not, the worst ending I have ever seen. Never has an ending felt like it was literally thumb tacked on by a kindergartner. The conflict is over way too fast and the whole scenario is way too absurd, bordering on deus ex machina. It’s a joke.
Opera is a very good horror movie, even though it has all of the makings to be dreadful. There’s bad acting throughout and an ending that will leave even the most casual cinephiles annoyed. Still, the murder scenes, set design, camera work, and idea are all great and work well together. This isn’t going to change anyone’s minds about Argento nor will it be appropriate for anyone with a weak stomach, but it’s a fun watch for horror fans, especially those already accustomed to Argento’s style.