Opera (1987)

Food: (Drink)

Halloween Cocktail #7:

Due to Edgar Allen Poe solidifying the Raven as the “Bird of Horror,” there are plenty of cocktail recipes with such a theme. The Macbeth play features a slew of ravens that, when they are not making their on-stage debut, are trapped in cages in the production house, and they seem to symbolize the ever-present threat of this masked killer throughout the film.

Written by Colleen Graham of TheSpruceEats.com, The Raven Cocktail incorporates vodka and rum, with blackberry to create a dark and moody coloring.

Ingredients:

1 ounce vodka
1 ounce rum
1 ounce blue curaçao
1 ounce Chambord

Directions:

Gather the ingredients.
Pour the vodka, rum, and blue curaçao into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Shake well and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice.
Slowly pour the Chambord over the back of a bar spoon, so it floats on top.
Serve and enjoy!

Halloween Italian Horror Film Series #7:

Opera” (1987) directed by Dario Argento, also known as “Terror at the Opera,” was one of his later films, after establishing himself as a true master of horror since the 1970’s. This one, as the title conveys, is the story of an opera house that is being harassed violently by a masked assailant. Driven by an incredible and fitting classical operatic score with Ronnie Taylor as the director of photography, Argento creates an atmosphere of dread within the walls of a close-knit company, somewhat reminiscent of Mario Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace” (1964). Argento also has an eye for creating drama with the use of light, whether it be natural or technicolor, coming in from the windows or through a tinted screen.

The opening scene is iconic. Argento starts with an extreme close up of the raven’s eye, reflecting the theater from the point of view of the stage. The raven squawks incessantly, disrupting the performance of the lead soprano. He utilizes long takes to transport audiences throughout the theater, as though we are creeping the corridors and spying on the events ourselves. It creates an intimacy with the theater company and its characters, and feel almost as though we are in the position of the perpetrator as he works his way through his victims.

In the same way he writes his other films, “Opera” is gruesome specifically because its violence feels accessible to the average viewer by creating scenarios that causes pain in ways we can imagine. One of the first attacks involves a coat hanger protruding from a wall skewering the back of a mans neck – without ever experiencing anything like that, one can relate to the vulnerability of that part of the body and feel sickened by the suggestion of something happening to it.

After the egotistical and quick-tempered star of the show, Mara Cecova, is injured, Betty (Cristina Marsillach), a young newcomer is asked to take her place. It is an avant-garde take on Macbeth, and as excited as she is for the opportunity, she cannot help but mention the superstition that “Macbeth brings bad luck.” It is not long before her most unimaginable fears are realized.

Betty is tied up and forced to watch (by way of a string of small needles being taped to her eyelids) as a unforeseen killer brutally stabs her lover. Remarkably, she is set free, but only so that this villainous murderer can continue to play his game, torturing her and slaughtering everyone close to her. The nature of this murderer falls more closely in line with the modern Jigsaw of the “Saw” movie franchise, as his mission is to construct scenarios where his victims are traumatized mentally just as much as they are mutilated physically. Part of the magic of this film is that Betty, and us as viewers, is that it is difficult to tell who to trust. Each character that is introduced, including the police officers who are there to protect her, feel like they could just as easily be the masked villain. Each time he is not actively on the screen, it feels like “he may be hiding, waiting” as Betty cries.

Though, it is lesser known than “Suspiria” and “Phenomena,” “Opera” was one of Argento’s most commercially successful films, likely a result of the director having already established himself as a filmmaker whose projects are worth paying to see. With slow motion, zoom shots, and, most commonly seen in this film, long takes, many of Argento’s techniques that helped elevate what would otherwise be a simple storyline, have made an influence on future filmmakers. That being said, this was not one of Argento’s best. The pacing was inconsistent, the sudden use of heavy metal to offset the opera score did not work as well as it could have, and the storytelling structure was fairly messy. There were more moments than there should have been when the leads behaviors did not feel in line with what a person would do under these circumstances. It felt like Betty continued to make herself more vulnerable instead of less after each attack. Ultimately, “Opera” is most memorable for its full-throttle “slasher” scares that are some of the best of all time, and the themes of dismembering one through their eyeballs and teeth is relentlessly chilling.

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