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[Film Review]: Dario Argento Panico (2023)

An older white man wearing a black tshirt with arms spread wide
Courtesy of Shudder. A Shudder Release

Directed by Simone Scafidi, Dario Argento Panico chronicles the life and career of the maestro of Italian horror, Dario Argento, as he seeks solitude in a hotel room in order to finish his latest script. 

Briefly touching on Argento’s childhood, the documentary begins the deep dive into the initial flourishes of the director’s cinematic career as a screenwriter, most notably for Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In the West (1968), before becoming a pioneer filmmaker in the mystery-murder genre of giallo. Beginning with his hugely successful animal trilogy which consists of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat O’Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972), before trying his hand at comedy with The Five Days (1973). The Master of Terror soon returned to the horror genre with a multitude of films spanning over fifty years such as Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1977) Phenomena (1985) and Opera (1987). 

With the promises of intimate insights into the mind of a horror legend, Dario Argento Panico does not deliver anything particularly groundbreaking or previously unknown when it comes to what Argento has to say about his craft. Conversation with the director is interspersed with talking heads of collaborators and actors from his catalogue of work as well as Dario Argento fanboys Gaspar Noé, Nicholas Winding Refn and Guillermo Del Toro. The most interesting and thought provoking segments of the documentary involve the women in Argento’s life, particularly his working relationship Asia Argento, as well as a brief

discussion of a particularly disturbing incident recounted by actor Cristina Marsillach on the set of Opera. There are glimpses of the director’s disrespectful behaviour towards women on set, yet the documentary fails to hold him accountable which immediately sets off a certain ick factor. 

Dario Argento Panico is a loving ode to one of horror’s greatest directors, however whilst it is an ideal documentary for Argento novices and fans alike, the sentimentality gets in the way of it being an in-depth and objective examination of the man behind the murder. 

2 and a half screams out of 5.

Dario Argento Panico is streaming on Shudder from February 2nd.


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