Trauma (Dario Argento, 1993)
Dario Argento has been making stylish, intelligent thrillers for four decades now. As is to be expected with a director who has close to twenty films in the can, his output has been a little inconsistent over the years. Trauma is on the up side of things, but it's not one of his best efforts.
David Parsons (For the Boys' Christopher Rydell) is an ex-junkie working as an artist for the local TV station. On his way home from work one night, he sees Aura Petrescu (Asia Argento of xXx and b.Monkey) getting ready to jump off a bridge. He stops her and convinces her to go for coffee with him. This does not work well, and she is accosted after running away from him. She is taken back home to her parents, spiritualists Adriana (Carrie's Piper Laurie) and Stefan (L'Ange's Dominique Serrand) after begging her accosters not to take her back to the Faraday Clinic, from which she had escaped just before the suicide attempt. On her first night home, however, not only do her parents call the clinic's head, Dr. Judd (Frederic Forrest, of Hammett fame), but during a séance, a series of confusing events occurs that leads to Adriana and Stefan's death. With nowhere else to turn, Aura goes back to David, and the two of them try to figure out who the killer is before he gets to Aura.
While the cinematography is pure Argento, much of the rest of the atmospheric trappings that make Argento films so wonderful are missing; most notably, the music is nowhere near the quality Argento got when working with Goblin. But a thriller doesn't have to be an Argento film to be good. How's the rest of it? The acting is a mixed bag; Frederic Forrest, especially, is painfully bad, the polar opposite of the brilliant, engaging actor who made Hammett such a treat. Piper Laurie reprises here Carrie role well, and while Argento's acting is not on par with movies she would make later in her career, she's acceptable. Brad Dourif also scores a role that's little more than a cameo, but he milks it for what it's worth. The plot can be a bit on the confusing side if you're not paying close enough attention, so be warned, but it does all come together in the end.
What will most disappoint diehard Argento fans, likely, is the almost complete lack of gore. Blame Argento's having made this film in America. He does get away with a decent amount, but it's a far cry from Profondo Rosso or even Non Ho Sonno.
All that said, I rather liked it; certainly more than I expected to, given the generally negative views of the film one finds in various places on the net. It'll probably be enjoyed more by those who aren't already students of Argento than those who are. ***