Friday, August 11, 2017

The Stendhal Syndrome

Director - Dario Argento (Suspiria, Inferno)
Starring - Asia Argento (Land of the Dead, Dracula 3D), Thomas Kretschmann (Captain America: Winter Soldier, Resident Evil: Apocalypse), and Marco Leonardi (In the Flesh, The Whores)
Release Date - 1996
Genre - Horror
Format - Bluray (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Dario Argento is one hell of a filmmaker.  When it comes to giallo he is about the only director that I enjoy watching.  Suspiria is a fucking masterpiece.  I remember the first time I saw it I had to have more of it.  I watched it at least 5 times that weekend.  Since then I have checked out several of his releases and they were mostly outstanding films that truly demonstrate why he is so influential in creating the sub-genre.  Sadly, the 2000s and on were not too kind to Argento and his career.  Some of these films were pretty rough to watch at times.  One film of his I had always wanted to see but never could track down was The Stendhal Syndrome.  At the time I was hunting for the film the only version available was the Troma release which was out of print.  I didn't want to sink what was being asked for it on ebay so I waited.  Luckily Blue Underground released the film on blu and was kind enough to send a copy my way.  Thanks guys.

     The film follows Detective Anna Manni (Argento) who is investigating a serial rapist who has turned into a murderer after he killed his last two victims.  She also suffers from Stendhal Syndrome which makes her black out whenever in the presence of art.  When she gets close to catching him she falls prey to him and becomes one of his rape victims.  She is able to escape before he is able to kill her.  She is then haunted by him and thinks she sees him everywhere.  He has not forgotten about her either and hunters her down and kidnaps her.  He takes her to a secluded area near a waterway where he rapes her once more.  She is able to fight back and stabs him in the neck before shooting him in the chest.  He falls in the water and his body is not recovered.  She suspects that he is still alive and when a new victim is uncovered sometime later she knows he is still out there...but is her still alive or has someone else started killing.
     Argento's career can be split into two sections.  Most know him by his amazing giallo films like Suspiria, Inferno, Tenebre, Phenomena, and so on but it's hard for some horror fans to look passed The Card Player and Dracula 3D.  Personally, I have a hard time looking passed the horrible CGI found in Dracula 3D but I enjoyed most of the film.  The Stendhal Syndrome has some entertaining moments but it is the weaker of the Argento films that I have seen in my life.  The acting in this one is solid.  I enjoy watching Asia Argento. She is a very underrated horror hottie that does not get the recognition that she deserves.  She is an amazing lead regardless of what sub-genre she is in.  The supporting cast is great as well.  No one out shines the other which really grounded this film.  Some horror films thrive on having a few characters standing out from the others.  This film would have crashed and burned if they would have done so.  The story for this one is a little confusing to the horror fan than knows nothing about it beforehand.  Stendhal Syndrome is a disease that makes one suffer hallucinations or pass out when they encounter art.  If you don't know that beforehand then you may be a little confused during the opening scene.  However, the story starts to make more sense as the film progresses.  I enjoyed it for the most part.  It had beautiful imagery and the story does have a fun twist that most horror fans would not see coming.  Argento's writing style and stories are always great but he has a hard time adapting with the times.  Finally, the film has some awesome on screen kills with great practical effects.  Sadly, some of the horrible and dated CGI overshadows them.  If they would have left the kills with the practical effects alone they would have been so much better.  I'm also confused as to why the opening scene with the dripping painting was even in the film.  They had to see how bad it was during their pre-screening.  Overall, The Stendhal Syndrome is a solid film that has some of Argento's flare but lacks the look.  His classic films are known for their beautiful lighting and camera work while this one looks like any other mid 90s Italian film.  The release from Blue Underground is great and should be in any collector's collection.  

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