Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Eibon Klein, Ruth Jessup
Starring: Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento, Piper Laurie, Frederic Forrest
The 1993 film Trauma was co-written and directed by Dario Argento and was also the first full film that Argento made in America. At the time it was poorly received, both critically and commercially, and is seen by some as the beginning of Argento’s critical decline. Watching it now, it’s no where near as bad as the legacy it holds. It may not come close to the heights of his earlier work, but it’s still a decent thriller with some great gore and effects.
Trauma is also notable for being the first time that Asia Argento starred in one of her father’s films. Asia would go on to star in many of his future films, including The Stendhal Syndrome, Mother of Tears, and this year’s Dark Glasses. In this film the younger Argento stars as Aura, a teenager struggling with anorexia (which was inspired by Asia’s half-sister), who witnesses the horrific murder of both of her parents. Not wanting to return to a psychiatric hospital, Aura seeks shelter with David Parsons (Christopher Rydell), who works in local news. The pair team up and start following the clues, trying to figure out who the murderer is.
The set up is classic Argento, where someone witnesses a murder and then going off on their own to solve it before the police do. It works quite well here, with some good twists and a good pace. The film length is around one hour and forty-five minutes, but it flies by. As it progresses the film does get sillier and sillier, with things like talking decapitated heads, which does undercut some of the tension but it still has its moments. It’s funny with some unintentional moments, as well as some music that feels like it should be from Home Alone whenever the kid who lives next door the murder is on screen.
Besides that the mystery is pretty good and keeps you guessing to the end. Even if the answer is a little over-the-top, it’s still a good journey to get there. The gore and violence is amongst the best of Argento’s work, with effects from Tom Savini that still stand up today. Funnily enough, Argento wanted to tone down the gore compared to his previous films, but it’s still very much a part of Trauma. The opening sequence shows someone being decapitated by some kind of garrotte device, that was created by Savini. The murderer uses this device throughout the film, with some grizzly gore to go along with it, especially some of the later scenes. It’s bloody and messy, but what more can you want from an Argento thriller.
The acting is very hit-or-miss and feels very typical of a 90s low-budget horror/thriller. There’s nothing so offensive that it’ll take you out of the film, but you’re not going to be blown away by any of the performances either. It has that charm that 90s films do, and if you’re a fan of stuff like Scream then you’ll feel very much at home here. What is a let down is the music, aside from the aforementioned childish theme that is really out of place, there’s nothing here that is memorable at all. Originally Argento’s usual collaborator’s Goblin were going to work on the score, but the studio turned them down which is a real shame. Instead we’re left with a generic score that doesn’t add much or make it unique in anyway.
Trauma isn’t Argento’s best, but it’s far from his worst. It’s easy watching, has some good twists and a good amount of gore. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, then you can’t go wrong here.
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