Another Nine Nights of Argento #9 – “Pelts” (2006)

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Here we go again! For my third annual Halloween trek through horror master Dario Argento‘s frightful filmography, I’m glopping through a gory grab bag of the Giallo madman’s screenplays, TV work, and other obscure treats.

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A year after Dario Argento created one of the best episodes of the Showtime anthology series Masters of Horror, he’s back with something even better: a cautionary tale about racoon ghosts (!) that is perhaps the most graphically violent thing he’s ever made, which is saying quite a bit if you’ve been following me in my quest to watch everything the Giallo master has ever made.

Meat Loaf Aday is a seedy furrier with a gross obsession with local stripper Shanna (Ellen Ewusie). When drunken poacher Jeb (legendary cult actor John Saxon) catches and kills a gaze of raccoons with exquisite pelts, Meat Loaf immediately wants in on the action to make a fur coat worthy of Shanna’s affections. There’s just one teeny tiny problem: those who come into contact with the cursed raccoon pelts have an unfortunate tendency to mutilate themselves in the most heinous ways that the wizards of gore at KNB EFX can cook up. If the image of a skinned man chasing you around with a vest made of his own flesh while screaming “I DID IT FOR YOU!” doesn’t turn you off fur, I don’t know what will.

Working off a strong teleplay Argento’s sophomore effort for Showtime exceeds the typically hit-or-miss Masters of Horror fare, rivaled only by John Carpenter‘s first season masterpiece Cigarette Burns. If anything, with its ironic come-uppance of those involved in the fur trade, Pelts feels like a grade-A episode of HBO’s Tales of Crypt, perhaps one deemed too graphic even by that program’s standards. It’s a gory Grand Guignol carnival of high camp, gratuitous nudity, and wonderfully over-the-top performances (with a particular level of balls-to-the-wall commitment by Meat Loaf) that is deserving of higher estimation in the Argento canon.

As we close out the third (and final?) edition of Nine Nights of Argento, I’d like to say thanks to those that read along on my adventure into one of horror’s most interesting, baffling, frustrating, and beloved of directors. To put a bow on this long Giallo journey, here is a list of my top nine favorite films from Dario Argento:

1. SUSPIRIA (1977)– Quintessential Argento. Gorgeously shot, beautiful production design, a perfect Goblin soundtrack, and never a dull moment.

2. PHENOMENA (1985)– A personal favorite. Rarely do so many weird and wild elements come together into something so cohesive and satisfying, with a star-making performance from Jennifer Connelly to boot.

3. DEEP RED (1975)– The turning point for Argento, as well as the definitive Giallo gloved-killer flick.

4. MASTERS OF HORROR: PELTS (2006)– See above.

5. TWO EVIL EYES (1990)- This underrated Edgar Allen Poe team-up with George R. Romero saw some of the best work from either filmmaker.

6. TRAUMA (1993)- This bonkers tale of the daughter of murdered psychics on the run from a head-chopping killer marks the debut of Asia Argento in one of her father’s films.

7. TENEBRE (1982)- Although it has a plot as messy as its savage kill scenes, the final 15 minutes alone make this one must-see Argento.

8. THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970)- Vintage Argento with an unusually comprehensible storyline. Not much gore, but plenty of suspense and style.

9. OPERA (1987)- This high-style slasher loses some points for its lame lead actress, tiresome plot, and clunky ending. How ’bout them ravens though?

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Categories: Dario Argento, Director Spotlight, Features

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