Directed by Dario Argento
Produced by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento & T.E.D. Klein
Director of Photograpy Raffaele Mertes
Music by Pino Donaggio
Cast: Asia Argento, Christopher Rydell, Laura Johnson, Frederic Forrest & Piper Laurie
1993/106 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
DVD releases of Dario Argento's films in the U.S. seem to go in cycles, especially those coming from Anchor Bay Entertainment. In 1999, we saw releases of TENEBRE and PHENOMENA, followed by DEEP RED and INFERNO in 2000. 2001 brought us SUSPIRIA, OPERA, and THE CAT O'NINE TAILS. Now, four years later, Anchor Bay is once again bringing us a duo of Argento DVD releases. Along with the director's latest film, THE CARD PLAYER, his 1993 effort TRAUMA is making its Region 1 debut.
As TRAUMA opens, a young man named David (Christopher Rydell) saves a young woman, Aura (Asia Argento), from leaping off of a bridge. David is a very kind-hearted person, so he offers to buy Aura lunch. But, before he can learn anything about her, she flees from the restaurant and is nabbed by two men from a psychiatric clinic. These men take Aura home to her parents, Adriana (Piper Laurie), a well-known psychic, and Stefan (Dominique Serrand). During a séance, Adriana is overcome by the sense that a murderer is in her midst and flees from the house, followed by Stefan. Seeing her parents flee, Aura pursues them as well, only to see that someone has decapitated both Adriana and Stefan.
Feeling unsafe, and fearing that she’ll be returned to the psychiatric clinic where she’d been a patient, Aura flees the scene to find David, who promise to take care of her. It appears that Aura’s parents were the latest victims of the “Head Hunter”, a killer who has been terrorizing the city by decapitating his victims. As they begin to investigate further, David and Aura find a pattern amongst the victims and realize that they must stop the killer.
On paper, TRAUMA looks very much like Argento’s earlier gialli. It features a black-glove clad killer, gory murders, a damsel in distress, an accidental hero, and an imaginative and macabre motive. In practice, the movie resembles a classic Argento film, as it features a number of creative shots involving quickly moving cameras and unusual angles. Yet, the movie doesn’t really work for several reasons.
This may sound odd, but one of my main problems with TRAUMA is the setting. Unlike the bulk of Argento’s films, TRAUMA was shot in America -- Minneapolis to be specific. I’m used to Argento’s films being set in Rome where he takes advantage of the city’s beautiful architecture and historical textures. These locations lend personality to the films and help to add to their exotic nature. The locales in TRAUMA seem very bland in comparison and make the film seem banal and average.
Argento’s films have never been touchstones for extremely tight scripting or strong characterizations (or coherence for that matter), but TRAUMA is especially loose with the story details. We learn very little about the characters and their motivations, especially David. A subplot concerning a young boy who is suspicious of his neighbor may be a nice homage to Hitchcock, but it feels very out of place in the movie. The opening of the film is clearly lifted from Argento’s own DEEP RED and the finale is especially ludicrous. (And what’s with the reggae band during the closing credits?) In the past, the script problems in Argento’s movies were forgivable because his style and shock-value easily made up for any shortcomings. (SUSPIRIA anyone?) But TRAUMA doesn’t have enough style to overcome its weak story.
The cast has its hits and misses as well. Christopher Rydell is believable as an everyman, but his character is almost too lackluster to be interesting. Asia Argento, working directly for her father for the first time, is fine, but she makes Aura a bit hard to like. As usual, Piper Laurie is great, but she isn’t in the film enough. The real standout in the film is Frederic Forrest as the evil psychiatrist Dr. Judd, who balances mania and weasel-like actions quite well.
TRAUMA is quite an enigma in Argento’s filmography. It doesn’t hold a candle to his classic gialli and will most likely disappoint long-time fans. Those who are unfamiliar with Argento will find it pondering and slow. The film does contain some nice camerawork and a creative murder weapon, but when compared to TENEBRE, it’s clearly second-rate.
TRAUMA loses its head on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (The DVD box art states that the film is letterboxed at 1.85:1, but this is a mistake.) For a lower-budget film from the early 90s, the transfer looks pretty good. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing only a minute amount of grain. The picture is noticeably dark at times though. The colors are good and they stand out quite well against the dark backgrounds. There are some subtle ghosting effects at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is also pretty good. The dialogue and Pino Dinaggio’s annoying music sound fine. There are some very discrete surround sound effects, and the rear and subwoofer channels really only come to life during the thunderstorm.
The TRAUMA DVD carries a handful of extras. Author Alan Jones contributes an audio commentary to the disc, and as he was on the set for the filming of TRAUMA, lends a great deal of information about the film’s production. But, as with his commentary on THE CARD PLAYER, Jones is far too unapologetically biased in Argento’s favor and fails to admit any major flaws with the film. (Although, on the commentary for THE CARD PLAYER, he does state that the locations in TRAUMA hurt the film!) “Love, Death, and TRAUMA” is a 19-minute interview with Argento mixed with clips from the film and behind-the-scenes footage. Here, the director talks about the influences for the story, what it was like to shoot in America, and how Asia prepared for her role. “On Set with Tom Savini” is 8-minutes of behind-the-scenes video which has some crew members speaking to the camera. I can only assume that Savini shot the video, because he doesn’t appear in much of it. The DVD contains four deleted scenes which comprise some 4 1/2 minutes and are in Italian with very nice English subtitles. The extras are concluded with the trailer for TRAUMA (1.85:1, 16 x 9), a Poster & Still Gallery, and a text biography for Argento.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©
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