**1/2 out of ****
As a devote fan of director Dario Argento’s work in the horror genre, ranging exclusively from the 70’s to the 80’s into the early 90’s, I have this odd, unexplainable belief that if there is no nostalgia to a modern Argento effort; there is also no effort, or style, and no entertainment value. This belief hasn’t been proven invalid since I first proposed it (Argento’s “Phantom of the Opera” was truly awful, and most of what followed wasn’t much better either); but there’s always the possibility of an exception. In this case, that exception is “Do You Like Hitchcock”; a 2005 made-for-television feature from the master of horror himself. Watching it, I recognized a few things: there was no style, but there was effort, entertainment value, and nostalgia in healthy doses. These are things that quite a few of the more recent Dario Argento movies have lacked; and as far as those go, this one isn’t half bad.
Well alright, maybe it is, kind of. This un-stylish but never uninteresting thriller follows young film student Julio as he attempts to take part in the solving of what appears to be a series of brutal murders that have been committed in the apartments surrounding his own. The murders share a similar thing: they seem to be inspired, in part, by the films of Alfred Hitchcock. There’s irony in the situation; given that Julio and his girlfriend constantly rent out the director’s films from their local video store, with Julio closely observing every last scene. So he might be of great service when it comes to finding out who the killer really is.
That’s the gist of it, anyways. The first murder is committed in the apartment across the street, where a beautiful woman and her elderly mother live – that is until the elderly mother is the victim of the sadistic killer committing the crimes. Julio is paranoid that he might be the next victim; and we believe in his claims, due to the fact that it’s made a known fact that somebody is following the protagonist, just as he is closely following others. It eventually untangles and then tangles itself right back up again; with about as many unneeded complications as intriguing mysteries to be solved. The story is uneven, but the characters are surprisingly well-played by their respective actors, and the movie certainly kept me engaged, no matter how ridiculous or slightly underwhelming it became by the finale.
With a movie like this, I’m simply trying my hardest not to complain. “Do You Like Hitchcock” has its pleasures – a minimalist style that Argento manages to work around in order to deliver some genuine thrills and chills, and a hilarious character that takes the form of a homeless old lady who collects trash from the bins outside random apartments and buildings nearby Julio’s – even if they can’t make up for its rusty plotting. Nevertheless, here’s what I’ve theorized: people have indulged in cinematically messy stories and overall films for much less, and Argento is simply trying to do something new. What I assume is that a great portion of his fan base will be disappointed by the lack of gore, beauty, and artistry in the final product; but there’s also a chance that a few compassionate souls will forgive and forget, and allow themselves to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Being a cinephile, the references to the works of Hitchcock scattered throughout were enjoyable; and all scenes taking place at the video store that Julio and his girl rent from are energetic and brimming with Argento’s non-signature, but non-subtle cinematic fanboyism. Sure, given these plot elements, I acknowledge that Argento probably could have done something amazing; but he crafts a simple yet somehow satisfying murder mystery in the tradition of his early Giallo pictures, minus the exquisite direction that had put him on the map in the first place. Look at Argento’s older films, and you’ll see that this is far from his best; but look at his newer ones, and you’ll notice that it’s far from the worst this filmmaker can do. He was once great; and “Do You Like Hitchcock” almost signifies a sort of return-to-form, stylistically, as long as you take out the flowing of the liquid red.
Way better than I could have ever anticipated, and worth seeing if you’re an avid fan; I may not particularly like “Do You Like Hitchcock”, but I certainly can at least appreciate it for what it is. Argento has tried to achieve something new and fresh for years; and I’ll have to say that this is probably it. The film’s an uneven mess for sure, but I enjoyed the feeling that I had while watching it. Certain plot elements and visual trickeries reminded me of why I admire Argento as much as I do in the first place; and while I loathe the absence of Argento’s signature grotesque artistry by way of the bizarre blood and gore, I like what took its place enough to recommend the film to the Argento-faithful. For those who see it and don’t like it; I feel as if I had warned you, and if you think differently…well then, too bad.