Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Known for popularizing the giallo slasher, legendary director Dario Argento returns to the horror fray for the first time in a decade, since 2012’s Dracula 3D. His comeback film is a loving tribute to the earliest days of his career—this translates to substantial, gory kills, a propulsive orchestral score from Arnaud Rebotini, and a meaty role for Argento’s daughter, Asia (Demons 2, The Church). For those seeking a cerebral or intoxicating experience, they can look elsewhere. Argento is far more interested in approaching a greatest-hits catalogue of exciting slasher elements, which for this viewer just plain worked.

On the same night as a flashy solar eclipse, a mysterious killer targets his third victim. Using cello rope, he nabs a call girl as she exits a prestigious hotel and slices her neck open. Fleeing in a black van, the killer leaves her bleeding out on the ground. His next target is the alluring, high-class prostitute, Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli). This time, the killer chases her in his white van, but in her efforts to escape, tragedy strikes. Diana careens into another car from a side angle, instantly killing a Chinese couple while their son, Chin (Andrea Zhang), remains unharmed in the backseat. This horrible event leaves Diana blind, with little hope of every regaining her sight, and Chin an orphan.

Rita (Asia Argento) takes Diana under her wing in the aftermath, starting Diana on her long journey to rehabilitation. Diana’s new service dog, Nerea, is an adorable new companion, but adjusting to life robbed of one’s sight proves difficult for Diana. Initially, Diana is plagued by constant nightmares, haunted by the death of Chin’s parents. As the police race to uncover the location and identity of The Cellist, Diana is forced to go on the run with the kind and sweet Chin. At every turn, The Cellist pursues the duo and leaves a trail of carnage in his wake. 

Dark Glasses is admittedly more low key and not quite as fireworks-heavy as some of Argento’s works. In essence, this is mainly just a cat-and-mouse thriller free of hidden subtext or nightmarish imagery. Still, the energetic music injects a thrilling coat of paint over even the mildly garish aspects. Ilenia Pastorelli was the perfect choice to lead the film; the addition of Andrea Zhang as Diana’s constant companion during the Cellist’s relentless pursuit is a stroke of genius from Argento. I doubt anyone will place this among their favorite horrors, but as a means to revisit a rogue’s gallery of “the king of giallo” at his best, Dark Glasses is certainly a mild slashersterpiece.

Dark Glasses screened at 2022’s Fantasia International Film Festival, and comes exclusively to Shudder on Thursday, October 13th!

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