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TRAUMA

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento, Laura Johnson, James Russo, Brad Dourif, Frederic Forrest, Piper Laurie
Director:  Dario Argento
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Anchor Bay
Features:  See Review
Length:  106 Minutes
Release Date:  August 23, 2005

"...Nicholas..."  

Film **1/2

When Italian horror maestro Dario Argento decides to tackle a pair of psychological diseases, you can bet heads will roll.

Trauma began because of the director's fascination with anorexia, so he gave the disorder to one of his lead characters.  The other is a recovering drug addict.  But both of them are more mentally balanced than the black clad stalker who's been going around cutting people's heads off with a bizarre Black and Decker tool.

It also marked the first time he directed his daughter, the international beauty Asia Argento (then only 16 years old).  Her co-star, Christopher Rydell, could understand the feeling...his dad is director Mark Rydell, who gave Chris his first screen appearance in On Golden Pond.

As we open, David (Rydell) spots the seemingly-suicidal Aura (Argento) too close to the dangerous edge of a bridge.  He tries to help her, but she seems more than a little distraught, and frequently runs to the bathroom to regurgitate her last meal (I thought that was bulimia, not anorexia?  What do I know...).

Aura has escaped from a clinic and returned home to her medium mother, Adriana (Laurie).  After a bizarre rainy night sťance, both Aura's mother and father end up dead and headless.

Freaked out and panicked, Aura turns to David for help, and the two try to get to the bottom of the mystery before the killer decides to recap a decap on one of them.

Despite the juicy premise, Trauma isn't nearly as gory as some of Argento's other works.  The fact that this DVD represents the first time the uncut version has been available in the States is more of a testament to how needlessly squeamish the distributors were in 1992.  It doesn't boast as much of Argento's clever camerawork either, although one unsuspecting victim loses his head via an elevator, leading to a rather imaginative shot.

As a mystery, though, it's fairly satisfying.  Argento makes the mistake of trying too hard to make one particular character look like the killer, so you can pretty much bet way in advance that it won't turn out to be him.  The final resolution was sufficiently surprising. 

In the end, the film doesn't really have a lot to say about the tragic condition of anorexia, and the drug addiction of the other character seems more like an unnecessary afterthought than a genuine plot device.  Rydell is a fairly solid actor, and Asia Argento is a beauty, though her performance seemed to be burdened by the fact that A) she had to speak English, and B) don a Romanian accent on top of it.

Trauma is not as unnerving as Suspiria or as grim as Opera, but it's a decent slice of suspense, mystery and horror from the man who has kept Italy in the horror genre for the last couple of decades.

BONUS TRIVIA:  This film marked a return to horror for actress Piper Laurie, who had earned an Oscar nomination more than a decade earlier for her work in Carrie.

Video ***

Anchor Bay delivers the goods once again with an impressive anamorphic transfer (scope ratio, despite the typo on the box).  The colors are vivid and the detail level is good throughout.  A couple of darker scenes lose a bit of definition and show a bit of film texture, but nothing terribly distracting.

Audio ***1/2

Another bold 5.1 remix from Anchor Bay...these guys aren't afraid to make a soundtrack as good as it can be.  Plenty of atmospheric sound from the rains to the streets, to the quiet moments when you know something's going to happen.  It all plays with clear dialogue, good dynamic range, and occasional but expressive use of the subwoofer.

Features ***

Two featurettes are included..."Life Death and Trauma" features new interview footage with Dario Argento, while "On the Set With Tom Savini" is a collection of then-current footage showing the great make-up artist at work, as well as revealing how some of the special effects were done.  There is a full length commentary by Argento author Alan Jones, who was there on the set of the movie and shares his memories of the director and stars.  Rounding out is about 4 minutes of deleted scenes, a trailer, a poster and stills gallery, and a bio for Argento.

Summary:

A mind is a terrible thing to waste...especially if it's rolling around on the floor in your recently-detached head.  Trauma is a good-but-not-great offering from Dario Argento that should leave his fans feeling settled if not completely satisfied.

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