Review by Cole Groth
If you’re into gore, then you might find a ton of pleasure in Dark Glasses. Directed by Dario Argento, this Giallo slasher doesn’t stray away from showing intense amounts of blood and grotesque injuries, which frequently feel over-the-top and pointless. However, the gore has no real substance to back it up. It’s a rather confusing, yet still short-feeling film that’s a largely unimpressive effort from everybody involved. With weak acting and an even weaker script, Argento’s experience with this type of film doesn’t show at all.
Dark Glasses follows Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli), a prostitute who goes blind after being attacked by a vicious serial killer. After getting attacked, she recruits the help of a young boy, Chin (Xinyu Zhang), who got inadvertently intertwined with her attack. As the police struggle to find the killer themselves, she goes on the run to escape, finding herself in increasing amounts of peril. This plot lends itself to plenty of thrilling moments, although most of them get more frustrating over time.
Many scenes are gruesome without much warning, which frequently feels unrealistic and jarring. Characters get brutally attacked and spew blood everywhere in a way that’s simultaneously realistic and far-fetched. The actual effects are rather fantastic, but the impacts that lead up to them don’t quite match. At times this film is highly reminiscent of the Saw franchise. It’s gross and feels highly uncomfortable to watch.
It’s harder to judge how good a performance is when watching a foreign film, but this film does a good job of highlighting bad performances. Ilenia Pastorelli’s performance is annoying and sappy, which matches most of the other actors. She wanders around blindly for most of the film without any sense of agency which quickly wears thin as it grows repetitive. None of the other actors give performances that feel realistic, but at least the poor acting is disguised in some way.
Two of the elements that stood out the most to me in a pleasant way were the cinematography and the soundtrack. With plenty of interesting shots, Matteo Cocco’s cinematography elevates many of the mundane scenes. His close-ups of the brutality found throughout are horrifying to look at but will manage to satisfy horror fans. The score by Arnaud Rebotini is also a lot of fun to listen to. Rebotini uses plenty of synths to create a uniquely entertaining soundtrack. The score undermines the terror and makes it feel a whole more exciting. This adds to the mystery aspect and the entertaining duo of Diana and Chin, which feels like a necessary route to keep the film from being a complete drag.
Speaking of, the pacing for this is not great. Even at a brisk 85 minutes, Dark Glasses meanders so frequently that it feels better suited as a 60-minute long film. Various sub-plots come on and leave with little-to-no impact on the story. These unnecessary plots are supplemented with annoying scenes of Diana and Chin struggling to get anything done. While looking for the central serial killer, they get attacked by snakes in a lake; while trying to fight back at the killer, Diana (who, as a reminder, is blind) decides to shoot her gun, rather than having Chin (the one who can see) shoot. Watching stupid characters struggle to do basic things is even more annoying when it feels like it’s in service of increasing the runtime. These frustrating moments may be added to get into the head of Diana, but frankly, Argento doesn’t seem smart enough to do that.
When it all comes together, this film feels like a brutal mess with few redeeming qualities. The ending alone is rather satisfying, but everything that leads up to it is a waste of time. The motivation alone of the serial killer is so brazenly stupid that it solidifies the idea that Argento wasn’t sure what he was doing with this. Fans of Giallo films might find some interesting thrills within this, but it’s a film that feels weaker as a whole than its already weak pieces. Unless you’re a fan of intense gore, you’ll probably want to skip this and reflect on Argento’s better works.
Dark Glasses hits theaters October 7 and streams on Shudder beginning October 13.