Sunday, February 10, 2013

Top Ten Goriest Kill Scenes from Dario Argento

Today begins Blood Sucking Geek's Ultimate Gore-a-thon: A Splatterific Extravaganza, and to start things off, I thought I’d do something I’ve never done before: create a top ten list. 

I've decided to make a list about the man who is the main reason behind my love for the giallo film: Dario Argento. And since this is a gore-a-thon, I thought it best to base the list on the top ten kill scenes from this film-making god who’s delighted in bringing us some of the very best and groundbreaking kill scenes of all time.

So get cozy and prepare yourself for At the Mansion of Madness’s very first list:

Top Ten Goriest Kill Scenes from Dario Argento. Enjoy!
10) Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005): Unsuspecting pestle bludgeoning from behind

Argento’s voyeuristic made-for-TV murder mystery only has one murder in it, which is oddly unusual for the director, but they sure did make it count. The murder happens late one night in an apartment across the street from lead character Julio’s apartment. The mother of the attractive girl Julio spies on with binoculars is violently killed with two lethal cracks to the skull by a killer wielding a bronze pestle, leaving a bloody crime scene and an unsolved murder for Julio to obsess over for the greater part of the film.

9) Pelts (2006): Losing a hand on an elevator and a homicidal Meat Loaf

I rather enjoy Argento’s two contributions to The Master of Horror TV series, as they were a nice return to gory form after the director had been shying away from extreme bloodletting for quite some time. The stories aren’t bad at all, but most notable is the buckets of gore the films deliver, particularly with Pelts. By the bloody elevator finale, echoing that of Deep Red, it became quite obvious that Dario had gotten his bloodlust back; something he definitely needed to finally film the third movie in his Three Mothers Trilogy.   

8) Inferno (1980): Fed to the rats in Central Park 

Cat lovers will find themselves cheering the man-eating rats on, in this gruesome little scene that Argento dreamt up while looking out on Central Park from his hotel room in New York. After drowning a bunch of cats in a burlap sack, late one night in the park, the crippled antique store owner, Kazanian, slips and falls into a shallow lake. Unable to get up, rats start to chew at his flesh, and the only other person around to hear his cries for help is a big, hefty looking cook, working a stand nearby, who eventually comes running around the lake, carrying a knife, and, let’s just say, things get a lot worse for Kazanian.

7) Deep Red (1975): Moving elevator decapitation

Argento seems to have a fascination with gruesome elevator finales, as seen in Pelts and The Cat o’ Nine Tails, but it was done best in his giallo masterpiece Deep red. After a slick and shocking twist, the movie goes out with a violent bang when someone loses their head in a moving elevator, leaving a reflected image in a pool of deep red blood of David Hemming's distressed facial expressions, making for one of the coolest ending credits ever.

6) Opera (1987): Slaughtered for Show

Opera takes a while to get going, but when lead character Betty is tied up with her eyes kept open with razor sharp needles and forced to watch the killer slaughter her boyfriend, things are in full swing from that moment on. Complete with multiple convincing stabs from the killer with a medieval looking blade, the scene is extremely bloody and actually a little unpleasant.

5) Phenomena (1984): Razor blade vengeance of the chimp

This face slashing scene involving a chimp with a personal vendetta and a razor blade she fished out of a trash bin doesn’t end up being as stupid as it sounds. It’s really the timing of this part that makes it work so well, and to say any more would spoil it. 

4) Mother of Tears (2007): Orally Mutilated, disemboweled, and strangled with own intestines

The general consensus regarding Argento’s final film in his Three Mothers Trilogy, The Mother of Tears, is that it pales in comparison to its predecessors, Inferno and Suspiria, lacking their colorful palettes and surreal craftsmanship. But the film is brutal as Hell and extremely entertaining, and, seriously, there’s nothing else like it. It’s flawed, but so were Argento’s most celebrated films of the past. This lengthy, ridiculously bloody kill scene with Coralina Cataldi- Tassoni early in the movie is one Hell of a grabber, and, quite honestly, it was nice seeing Dario going overboard.  

3) Sleepless (2001): English horn oral trauma

This is a brief but traumatizing visual that takes place during lead character Giacomo’s childhood flashback of when his mother was murdered by a killer with an English horn. Though you can tell it’s a dummy, it still feels incredibly brutal and unsettling, and it should rip an “Oh my God” from the throats of viewers seeing it for the first time.

2) Suspiria (1977): Slaughtered boarding school runaway by hairy arm thing

Argento goes all out with the first supernatural kill of his career at the beginning of Suspiria. This is Argento’s most famous and well known kill scene. It’s logic defying, it’s beautiful, it’s exciting, it’s lengthy, it’s excessively gory, and it establishes just what type of horror film viewers are in for early on: a type they’ve never seen before.

1) Tenebre (1982): Wall splatter masterpiece

The start of Tenebre’s hugely satisfying bloody climax begins with the murder of one of the more suspicious characters in the film. The visual of blood spraying over a white wall after the killer lops the victim's arm off with an axe is like that of a painter creating a work of art on a canvas. This has to be one of the most visually stunning murders in Argento’s career. It is extremely realistic and comes as quite a surprise and is still just as captivating today as it was in 1982.   

Well there you have it: Dario Argento’s ten best gory kill scenes, according to me. Did you agree/disagree? Did your favorite scene not make the list? Step up to the plate and let everyone know; I’m sure this is a pretty controversial topic.

This article is part of Blood Sucking Geek’s Ultimate Gore-a-thon: A Splatterific Extravaganza, and all readers are encouraged to check out all of these other blogs/sites participating in the gore-a-thon.


  1. That's a fine top ten list! I'm a little ashamed to say I've never watched Sleepless yet. I own a copy, but it's a cruddy U.S. release in the wrong aspect ratio. I think I know better than to watch Argento in the wrong aspect ratio. Shot composition is just too important in his movies.

    The scene in Inferno is a personal favorite. Phemomena (as Creepers) was the first Argento I ever watched, so the last few minutes of that one were pretty WTF for me. lol As I admitted to Bob last night, that was also the beginning of my crush on Jennifer Connelly - which continues unabated to this day.

    Well done.

    1. Thanks, Brandon! Actually, I’ve got that same shoddy US release of Sleepless. I just cropped the image to seem like it was at the right aspect ratio, heh heh. I thought Sleepless was a fabulous modern giallo, something I’ve only been accustomed to as being primarily a late ‘60s early ‘70s thing. It’s also very bloody, and Max von Sydow gives a great performance, particularly during his demise.

      Phenomena was my second Argento and I remember being pretty excited when the ending credits rolled; I knew I was in love and was going to find and watch every film Dario had made up to that time.

  2. What an incredible list. I love the Suspiria kill, it might be my number 1, but that Tenebre kill is a great pick. I haven't seen Sleepless yet either, and now I know what I've been missing so I'd better get on it!

    Awesome list.

    1. Thanks, Jonny! That Suspiria kill is pretty exciting. I remember some Halloween special on different horror directors on the SciFi channel (before it was SyFy) back in 2004 that was hosted by Bruce Campbell; I think it was called Boogeymen: Masters of Horror, and they only covered scenes from Suspiria, particularly this kill scene, when they got to Dario’s segment. It is definitely Argento’s most significant scene.

  3. Great list! I like that you included something from Inferno. I also really love that scene from the end of Deep Red. The best part is that David Hemmings screams when her head comes off...the fact that he is horrified, meaning he obviously retains his humanity after the events of the film, is one of the things that makes Marcus Daly such a great character. Lesser horror protagonists would have said a one-liner instead.

    1. Hey, Erin! Thanks for commenting! Marcus Daly is probably my favorite of Argento’s lead characters. I haven’t been sure why, but thanks to what you’ve pointed out about this character, I think I now know why. Marcus is a very human character, whose obsession with the murders in the film is not for personal reasons, but because his humanity results in him being very sensitive to the killing, and he responds to it by sleuthing. A one-liner is what would’ve normally been expected, especially considering that he’s the one that threw the elevator switch, but having him scream was a far better choice. I never looked at it like that until now; thanks, Erin, for that observation.

  4. YAY! That Tenebrae scene is my favourite too! The whole thing's entirely monochrome until the axe comes smashing through the window; great stuff. I also love the death-by-art endings in Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Tenebrae, and Peter Neal's 'suicide' and subsequent 'resurrection' in the latter – the scene where he's revealed to be standing behind the policeman when he bends down to pick up the razor – brrrrrrr.
    Nice blog!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Elizabeth! Yes, Tenebre is awesome on so many levels, and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage has a wonderful twisty finale that was like the seed to the way Argento ends movies. The scenes you mention are most certainly honorable mentions. I also liked the part in Tenebre where one of the killers visits Tilde while she’s in the middle of changing her shirt. Being attacked with the shirt over her head, those few seconds of vulnerability, makes it work so well on the suspense level.

  5. An interesting article...I tend to shy away from list based posts as well, far too many of them for my liking. But this one caught my eye. Here are few other Argento kills that might make my own personal list. The opening schoolgirl killing in PHENOMENA. Not so much the murder itself, but the whole atmosphere conjured by the music and the sense of isolation. The killing of the lesbian in TENEBRE...once again it is more the build up, as Argento's roving camera moves from the window and over the roof without a single cut. The death of the psychic woman in DEEP RED. The death of Liam Cunningham in THE CARD PLAYER.

    1. I actually always thought that I’d never make a list for this blog, ever. But, I guess, something like taking part in this Gore-a-thon kind of pushed me into trying something new, for me at least. I think I might of made a mistake by not including Tilde’s death in Tenebre, which I agree is terrific scene, roving camera and all, but my favorite flashy camera work from Argento is the Raven’s eye view above the audience in Opera. I also considered the scene you mention from Phenomena, but it didn’t quite make it in the end. I think there’s just too many awesome death scenes from Argento that making a list that only has ten of them leaves out so many, but I’m glad the honorable mentions are continuing, with the scene with Tilde being the most popular of the scenes I didn’t include.

  6. Cool list with some very interesting choices. I pretty much agree with you top picks but I do have a couple of big favorites that didn't make your list. First and foremost the double murder of Carlo and Sara in INFERNO. That's actually one of my all-time favorite Argento scenes. It's so tense and chilling, with Verdi's beautiful music making a great contrast to violent images. The part when the dying Carlo falls over Sara, grabs hold of her and bleeds all over her while she struggles to get away is incredibly intense. Every time I watch it I almost feel as if he's grabbing hold of me! I am always rooting for Sara to be able to push him away and escape even though I know she won't, so that says a lot about what a powerful scene it is!

    I also like the murder of the girl on the train in SLEEPLESS but I guess it's more the scene itself and the suspenseful chase rather than the actual kill itself. And the murder of the first lesbian in TENEBRAE is another classic - the image when the razor cuts a hole in her white sweater is just so stylish!

    I must confess I don't share your enthusiasm for the murder of Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni in MoT, though. Argento has always had a special talent for making brutal, violent death look beautiful and stylish but I don't see any of that here. There's simply no aesthetic pleasure to be gained from watching this scene. To me it's just ugly and repulsive - up until the intestine strangling, at which point it just tips over into BRAIN DEAD-style comedy. It's definitely a scene that stands out, though, so I can see your reason for putting it in your list.

    1. You’re right about the murder from MOT, it’s a nasty scene and lacking that beauty you mention that accompanies Argento’s murders. Though he’s made some nasty scenes in his heyday, too, like the burning hot bathtub murder in Deep Red, but the beauty that is apparent in the top two scenes from my list has most certainly been absent in Argento’s later work.

      That segment you mention from Sleepless is fantastic, as well; I particularly enjoyed the shots from the outside of the train where you can see the victim running along the aisle on the seemingly empty train.

      I re-watched that scene from Inferno that you mention, and you’re absolutely right about it. That whole segment with Sara (starting from when she is in the taxi opening the letter to when she's murdered) is like an episode of the movie that could work as its own horror short.