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Review: Dario Argento - Panico

Film poster for Dario Argento Panico

Sticking with the Italian / Argento theme of last month's January Giallo, I watched the new documentary on the Maestro Dario Argento himself, just released on Shudder. Like the Ennio Morricone doco that I included in my Top 10 Films for 2023, this is a traditional but illuminating exploration of the man behind some of the greatest horror films of all time.


The framing device of present-day Argento being taken to a gorgeous but remote hotel to finish his latest script (and sit for the doco interviews) is a warm and funny intro to the man responsible for so many nightmarish visions - here he is more gently grumpy grandpa, complaining about the drive to the hotel and then the hotel itself.

The doco then follows a linear path through his career with insights from his daughters, including an emotional candidness from Asia about working with her father on the more risque elements of his films, although it would have been good to hear his perspective on their sometimes fraught working relationship. Also, the input of the great Daria Nicolodi, Argento’s one-time muse, mother of Asia, actress and co-writer is missed as she sadly passed away in 2020, but she is there in the archival footage.


There were some illuminating factoids, such as Argento being a co-writer on Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West and his parents both being involved in the Italian film industry.


There is also the requisite selection of younger filmmakers (Guillermo Del Toro, Gaspar Noe & Nicolas Winding Refn) offering their views and memories of Argento’s filmography, Del Toro once again proving to be one of the most astute minds in the genre.


The film does rush over his later works, but given the noticeable drop in quality in the 2000’s (until his late return to form with 2022’s Dark Glasses), maybe it is for the best. Essentially it is a three-star doco in form, elevated by the story being told and the man himself.


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