Nine More Nights of Argento #1 – “Two Evil Eyes” (1990)

CATLast October, I saw the first nine films directed by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. With the spooky season upon us again, I’ve decided to check out the back-half of Argento’s filmography, from 1990’s George A. Romero team-up Two Evil Eyes to 2012’s notorious flop Dracula 3D.

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What happens when celebrated horror director (and inventor of the zombie!) George A. Romero teams up with everyone’s favorite Giallo madman Dario Argento to produce an anthology horror flick based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe? Well, Two Evil Eyes happens.

Romero leads things off with The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, centering on a gold-digging wife (Adrienne Barbeau) using her boyfriend’s hypnosis skills to inherit her dying husband’s fortune, while Argento takes over the second half with The Black Cat, chronicling a boozy crime scene photographer (Harvey Keitel) and his head-first plunge into madness and murder.

Romero is no stranger to sharing the spotlight with a fellow terror titan in the service of an anthology horror film. Eight years prior to Two Evil Eyes, he directed the ghoulishly glorious Creepshow, which sprung from five short horror stories from screenwriter Stephen King. It should be no surprise then that Valdemar is campy, bloody, and downright fun, utilizing several of Creepshow’s greatest strenghts: comic book framing, Tom Savini‘s outstanding gore effects, and scream queen Barbeau in the lead role.

Roughly an hour into Two Evil Eyes, we switch gears to Argento’s effort, The Black Cat, and as you may expect, the change in directors is incredibly jarring. All of a sudden, characters stop behaving like human beings. The plotting gets rapidly more incoherent. The campy violence is replaced with graphic Giallo gore. The static lensing is shaken up in favor of Argento’s wildly kinetic cinematography. A manic, beret-wearing Harvey Keitel quickly becomes the oddest aspect of a film which has already inundated us with talking dead people, interdimensional travel, and death-by-metronome.

However, once you settle into the groove of Argento’s manic beat, The Black Cat becomes one of the most wild and energetic films of the horror master’s career. Drawing freely from bits of half-remembered Poe stories, Alfred Hitchcock flicks, and even his own filmography, Argento seems to be having a blast with this material, merrily bouncing from gory setpiece to gory setpiece, all to the tune of Euro-trash synth and arrhythmic howling. The Dark Master even finds places to stick in some surprising bits of black comedy, the best of which features an extremely guilty-looking man trying to explain away the disappearance of a murder victim as delivery men arrive with the necessary materials to build a tomb.

So who wins this battle between these two masters of the macabre? Well, I’m calling it a draw. While Poe purists may want to look elsewhere, Two Evil Eyes delivers strong work from two legends of horror.

Next up: TRAUMA (1993)

 

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features, Reviews

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  1. Another Nine Nights of Argento #9 – “Pelts” (2006) | Filmbalaya.com - November 6, 2015

    […] TWO EVIL EYES (1990)- This underrated Edgar Allen Poe team-up with George R. Romero saw some of the best work […]

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