Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini
Rated R for Strong Terror and Violence, and for a Scene of Sexuality
Classifying "Opera" as a horror flick is a falsehood since it's rarely scary. A better genre to peg it under would be comedy, since it's occasionally funny. The problem is that it's not supposed to be. Awkward...
After an opera star's diva-like behavior ends up with her getting hit by a truck, Betty (Marsillach), her understudy, takes over as the lead. However, Betty is nervous about making her debut in this particular opera, Verdi's "Macbeth," since it's rumored to be cursed. Nevertheless, the show must go on and Betty makes a stunning debut. Her newfound fame might be short-lived though, since someone is picking off members of the cast and crew.
Betty would be the ideal horror movie heroine: she's adorable, has a decent set of lungs, and is capable of speaking her lines without it sounding like fingernails on the chalkboard. There's just one problem: she's stupid. Betty is so dim-witted that it's a wonder she survives so long in the first place. After seeing numerous people get butchered (in a sadistic twist, the killer ties her up and tapes nails to her eyes to force her to watch his "handiwork"), she doesn't leave her apartment when the killer might be in there for a very long time. I don't know about you, but if a serial killer was stalking me and was in my apartment, I'd grab something to defend myself with (which, to be fair, she does) and high-tail it out of there.
It's not just Betty. Everyone in this movie has a brain that can fit inside a matchbox. At one point, someone knocks the killer down and unmasks him but doesn't say his name (from shock, I assume) before he fillets her. Or another time, when Betty is outside and the killer is in the house with one of her friends, the friend goes to the window and screams at her to run. I'm thinking, dude, you're on the second floor of a small house on a grassy knoll: jump and run! Tell her when you get to her. Don't advertise where you are!
Now, horror movie characters have to be stupid. Otherwise there wouldn't be a horror movie. But throwing the knife away after stabbing the killer or running up the stairs when the killer is after you (both of which happened in "Halloween") is reasonable for horror movie standards, especially if the tension level is high enough. But the level of idiocy in "Opera" makes it impossible to identify with anyone but the killer, if only so he will prevent them from passing on their genes.
The direction by Dario Argento doesn't help. The Italian filmmaker has made a name for himself in the horror genre, but, suffice it to say, subtlety isn't among his strengths. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but his shot selection and "flair" are so extreme that he brings Tsui Hark to mind, and that's not a good thing (Hark, if you recall, co-wrote and directed "Time and Tide").
I should also mention his direction of the kill scenes. For a grade-Z slasher movie, which is what this is since the script is almost embarrassingly bad, the gory murders are the most important part of the movie. Flair and creativity with which the characters are maimed, killed or otherwise sent to the netherworld by the killer, is essential. However, Argento directs them with such a fetishistic touch that it becomes overkill. It's not that it's too gory (not enough, really), but that if you think it's clever to show murders from the eyes of an unwilling witness and the killer, you should probably seek professional help.
Joking aside, this is a pretty lame movie. There's no real tension, mainly because Argento has no touch for atmosphere and he thinks that metal music is appropriate for slasher scenes. What was he smoking? While I won't be arrogant enough to say that a gifted filmmaker can't effectively use music that contrasts with what's going on on-screen, I haven't seen it.
And I wish I hadn't seen this movie.