Tenebre (1982)

91m, 101m, 110m
35mm, Technovision, Technicolor, 1.85:1
stereo, Italian

An Italian directed by Dario Argento. Despite being made available in a cut form, the UK video release was added to the “” list in March 1984.

Plot Summary

American writer Peter Neal is in Rome to promote his latest thriller, Tenebre and finds himself in the middle of a real-life mystery – a serial-killer is stalking the city, stuffing pages torn from the book into the mouths of his victims.


* = uncredited

Directed by: Dario Argento
© 1982 W.A.C.
Salvatore Argento presents a film by Dario Argento. A Sigma Cinematografica-Rome production
Produced by: Claudio Argento
Screenplay by: Dario Argento, George Kemp
Story by: Dario Argento
Director of Photography: Luciano Tovoli
Film Editor: Franco Fraticelli
Music by: Claudio Simonetti|Simonetti Fabio Pignatelli|Pignatelli Massimo Morante|Morante
Sound Technician: Mario Dallimonti
Costume Designers: Pierangelo Cicoletti
Make-up Artist: Pierantonio Mecacci
Make-up: Pierino Mecacci
Hair Stylist: Patrizia Corridoni
Special Effects: Giovanni Corridori
Art Director: Giuseppe Bassan
Filmed at Elios Studios-Rome
Locations: New York City, New York, USA; Rome, Lazio, Italy [all uncredited]

Anthony Franciosa [Peter Neal]
Christian Borromeo [Gianni]
Mirella D'Angelo [Tilde]
Veronica Lario [Jane McKerrow]
Ania Pieroni [Elsa Manny]
Eva Robins [girl on beach]
Carola Stagnaro [Detective Altieri]
John Steiner [Christiano Berti]
Lara Wendel [Maria]
John Saxon [Bullmer]
Daria Nicolodi [Anne]
Giuliano Gemma [Detective Germani]
Isabella Amadeo
Mirella Banti [Marion]
Enio Girolami
Monica Maisani
Marino Mase' [journalist]
Fulvio Mingozzi [hotel manager]
Gianpaolo Saccarola [doctor]
Ippolita Santarelli
Francesca Viscardi
Michele Soavi [man with girl on beach] *

Alternative Titles

Sotto gli occhi dell'assassino – shooting title
Tenebrae – UK
Tenebre – Der kalte Hauch des Todes – Germany
Unsane – USA

Extracts included in
78/52 (2017)
Il mondo dell'orrore di Dario Argento (1985)


and Filming no.348 (September 1983) p.36
Argento's preoccupation, after Suspiria, seems to be with devising novel and increasingly nasty ways of killing his characters, especially when they are women. Each murder scene occasions a dazzling assemblage of cinematic effects – the camera tracks its victims who gaze back in erotic appreciation of their vulnerability. The editing becomes frenzied, weapons and related objects are shown in fetishistic close up. The methods of execution are various: a multiple stabbing, a skull cleaved, an arm severed, throats slashed – all photographed with vicarious relish. Particularly stylish and depraved is the shot of a woman's face and upper torso shuddering as – beyond the frame – her stomach feels the full weight of the axe's blade. Yet it is only at such fetishistic high points that the narrative transcends banality. Elsewhere the lacklustre scenes connecting the set-pieces are mechanically and dutifully gone through. The story is weighted down by the demands of the ‘whodunit' formula. Genre cliches are everywhere, having the unintended effect of self-parody. – from a review by Mark Le Fanu

Variety 18 February 1987 p.20
A routine whodunit, albeit saturated with gore. Lack of fantasy elements and the colourful stylization that denote [Argento's] best work is a disappointment. […] Film largely devolves into an uninteresting series of vignettes of beautiful women being stalked and slashed, reducing Argento's crtaft to the mindless level of his many exploitation-minded mitators. With most of the setpieces filmed at a modern villa, Argento eschews the fabulous studio creations and pastel lighting that are the trademark in features such as Suspiria. Cameraman Luciano Tavoli gets to flex his gyroscopic muscles in the flashy manner of his work on Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger but to little purpose. Cast is attractive but hurt by some clumsy dubbing. – from a review by Lor

Cinefantastique vol.18 no.4 (May 1988) p.54
As usual for Argento, meticulously staged murder set-pieces (including a couple of axings all but excised by the censors) are followed by stretches of pedestrian writing and flat performances, with a bevy of beautiful victims who are all pretty much interchangeable. Still, a few scenes are vintage Argento: one where the camera does an attenuated crawl up the side of a building where a couple of female victims are cowering, and another where a lesbian victim views her attacker through her slashed t-shirt. – from a review by Todd French

Sight and Sound September 1996 p.61
Tenebrae, one of my most strange and nervous works, was the film in which I featured the most killings. There was an enormous number: so many as to be intentionally and comically ridiculous. In it much of the horror is delivered as black humour. For instance, the murderer, a writer and pervert, is a character which, as a macabre joke, is modelled on me. Many of my murders are filmed not just to scare but to provoke laughter. This is the case with so much horror now, it is so often fused with comedy. – from an illustrated article by Dario Argento

Empire no.124 (October 1999) p.144
Astonishing, over-the-top technical tour de force which here includes a drifting sequence over and around a house, a majestically weird dream sequence, unrepentant misogyny and sudden spectacular gore, all accompanied by shrieking electronic music. A classic of its type stupidly mutilated (by four seconds) by your friendly censors at the BBFC. – from an illustrated video review by Adam Smith

Sight and Sound vol.9 no.10 (October 1999) pp.60-61
[A] bold and typically unsettling giallo […] [A] singularly fascinating film – even by the director's own singularly fascinating standards. – from a video review (Video: rental) by Danny Leigh



  • Cineinforme no.101 (March 1983) p.21 – credits
  • Cinefantastique vol.14 no.3 – review
  • Cinefantastique vol.18 no.4 (May 1988) p.54 – review (by Todd French)
  • Cinema Sessanta no.149 (January/February 1983) pp.149-157 – illustrated article
  • City Limits no.90 (24 June 1983) p.22 – review
  • Deep Red no.1 p.44 – illustrated review
  • Écran Fantastique no.34 (May 1983) pp.36-38 – article
  • Écran Fantastique no.35 (June 1983) pp.39-40 – review
  • Empire no.124 (October 1999) p.144 – illustrated video review (by Adam Smith)
  • Empire no.165 (March 2003) p.130 – illustrated DVD review (RWD by MD)
  • European Trash Cinema vol.2 no.6 p.36 – review
  • Fangoria vol.7 no.66 (August 1987) pp.14-17, 65 – illustrated article (The Butchering of Argento by Tim Lucas)
  • Fangoria no.274 (June 2008) p.66 – DVD review (DVD Dungeon by Michael Gingold)
  • Filmcritica no.331 (January 1983) pp.30-33 – article
  • Filmfaust no.42 (October/November 1984) pp.19-20 – review
  • Film Score Monthly vol.10 no.5 (September/October 2005) pp.22-27 – illustrated article (Meet the proglodytes: A Goblin buyer's guide by Mark Richard Hasan)
  • Film Review no.628 (March 2003) p.92 – illustrated DVD review (by Nikki Baughan)
  • Films May 1983 p.24 – review
  • Films and Filming no.348 (September 1983) p.36 – review (by Mark Le Fanu)
  • Foreign Sales, Italian Movie Trade vol.8 no.4/5 (April/May 1982) (Italy) pp.1, 3, 17 (Italy) – illustrated article (Tenebrae is the new film by Dario Argento, a “pearl” for Intra Film's 1982 list)
  • Halls of Horror no.27 pp.27, 30-31 – UK video data
  • Interzone no.235 (July/August 2011) p.54 – review (by Tony Lee)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.50 no.592 (May 1983) p.139 – credits, review
  • Samhain no.8 p.12 – review
  • Screen International no.345 (29 May 1982) p.9 – note
  • Screen International no.393 (7 May 1983) p.82 – review
  • Sight and Sound September 1996 p.61 – illustrated article (by Dario Argento)
  • Sight and Sound vol.9 no.10 (October 1999) pp.60-61 – video review (Video: rental by Danny Leigh)
  • Sight and Sound vol.13 n3 (March 2003) pp.65-66 – DVD review (Home movies: reviews by Geoffrey MacNab)
  • Starburst no.50 (October 1982) pp.6-7 – illustrated article
  • Starburst no.57 pp.12-13 – illustrated review
  • Televisual February 2003 p.51 – illustrated article (Blood money)
  • Time Out no.670 (24 June 1983) p.39 – review
  • Variety 18 February 1987 p.20 – credits, review (by Lor)
  • Video the Magazine January 1985 p.67 – review
  • Video Week 5 January 1987 p.8 – review


  • 500 Essential Cult Movies: The Ultimate Guide by Jennifer Eiss with J.P. Rutter and Steve White p.264 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.382 – review, credits
  • Dario Argento by Maurizio Baroni and Marco D'Ubaldo pp.72-75 – illustrations, credits
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby p.276
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.393, 393-94
  • Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death by James Marriott & Kim Newman p.238
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.270 – credits
  • Horror Films of the 1980s by John Kenneth Muir pp.629-630 – credits, synopsis, review
  • House of Psychotic Women by Kier-La Janisse p.321
  • Italian Horror 1979-1994 by Jim Harper pp.181-185 – illustrated credits, review
  • The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies: An A-Z Guide to Over Sixty Years of Blood and Guts by Peter Normanton pp.409-411
  • The Pocket Essential Slasher Movies by Mark Whitehead pp.88-89
  • Serial Killer Cinema: An Analytical Filmography by Robert Cetti p.455-456
  • Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema by Philip Hayward (ed) pp.97, 191

Other sources

  • 2019 Arrow Video FrightFest Festival Guide p.89 – illustrated note, credits