In the grand tradition of murder and mayhem Opera stands out, even if it isn’t Argento’s best film-although I’ll take it over his animal trilogy, Inferno, and Phenomena. The main heroine, Betty (Cristina Marsillach) remains tormented during the entire movie by the famous Argento cliche: the mysterious psycho killer rampaging, horribly murdering people in unique and creative ways. Only in this case poor Betty suffers a fate worse than death: the killer takes needles and tapes them under her eyelids so that she is forced to watch the murders the killer commits. This adds to the main Argento motif of the potential victim being tortured one way or another, hunted and unable to escape.
The soundtrack is also interesting, as since the movie centers on an opera there is mostly opera music, save for jarring heavy metal songs, which are used to great effect, particularly in moments when Betty is trying to save herself from the killer. Despite this being a well crafted, freaky and haunting movie it has some limitations that prevent it from being more than just near great/very good. First, I was able to guess the killer and I have not been able to do that in any of the Argento movies I’ve viewed so far. That sucks the fun out of the movie a little, although maybe its my own fault for being a lucky guesser. Second, the movie loses something in the last act and a bit of the tension falls away. Sometimes Argento’s movies don’t sustain momentum, and in a few cases the last act isn’t as strong as the first act or the middle act.
However the majority of this film is a walking nightmare, a dark journey into madness, one that relies on eerie dreams of the past and centers on a crazed murderer’s obsession with Betty, who was able to seize an opportunity at stardom. In a way this is another film where Argento deals with his career, although the meta aspects are not half as strong as they were in his best film, Tenebre. The kills in this one are also horrifying and nasty, which is another of his trademarks and which is the hallmark of his 70s and 80s films based on what I’ve seen so far, which is almost all of his work before the 1990s. Regardless no one can craft a beautiful and awful death scene like Dario Argento.