More than any other "horror" director, Dario Argento understands that the horror genre's greatest strengths lie in it's visuals. Italian horror films are often more visually striking than their American counterparts, but Argento is a master at using color and crazy camera work to make his point. In the same way that he took several nods from Hitchcock, one could argue that Sam Raimi took his from Argento.
Opera is no exception with it's dizzying cinematography, ornate and quasi-gothic sets and terrifying use of small spaces, close ups and color. In fact, the story is almost secondary to the spectacle, but it's not too bad.
When a world famous opera diva is injured after throwing a tantrum during rehearsal, the understudy is called up for her debut in Verdi's MacBeth. She is worried due to the reputation of the opera as being bad luck, but performs anyway much to the delight of opera fans throughout Italy. Meanwhile, however, members of the crew start dying off one by one as they are hideously (and meticulously as is Argento's style) murdered by a masked madman. The kicker is that each murder occurs in front of the understudy who is tied up and forced to watch by having a strip of nails taped under her eyes. If she were to close them, she would puncture them. It's all very macabre and gruesome.
The kill-scenes are particularly icky, and given the beauty and "classiness" of the other scenes in the film, they feel almost dirty which makes for very effective sequences of shock and horror - again, something Argento excels at. Add in some very bad, but strangely toe-tappin' German sounding 80's heavy metal and they get even better.
Opera is tense and taut throughout, and creepy in a weird way, though not maybe intentionally. It may just be that this is a very European film and I'm just very American. Regardless, it's damn good.
- Complaint Department