A young man, David, prevents a teenage girl, Aura, from throwing herself off a bridge. The troubled girl steals his wallet and flees, only to be caught by staff from the clinic where she was being treated and returned to her émigré parents, professional mediums.

At their next séance, Aura's mother has visions that a killer is in the room. Then she and her husband are slain, decapitated by a serial killer who collects heads as trophies.

David tracks Aura down, believing that she holds the key to the headhunter murders and begins his investigations...

More serious than the bulk of teen horrors that have dominated the market since Scream, Trauma has moments of style that betray/show the hand of its director, Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. But in general it comes across as an awkward, too-conscious attempt by the filmmaker to break into the US market. Too American to really succeed as a giallo, yet too European and personal to work as an American slasher in the Friday the 13th mould, Trauma is neither one thing nor the other.

Assorted plot points and motifs - psychic premonitions, a half-remembered childhood incident, lizards - recall earlier Argento classics like Deep Red, but invariably to lesser effect.

The score by frequent Brian De Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio references Herrmann's work for Hitchcock, but lacks the distinctive personality that The Goblins' prog-rock brought to the best of Argento's domestic work.

Being an American production does benefit the film in one area: The supporting cast, with Piper Laurie, Brad Dourif and Frederick Forrest in fine form, is a notch above the director's usual. Alas, this is more than outweighed by Christopher Rydell and Asia Argento, bland and inexperienced leads. (Like Francis Ford Coppola, Argento likes to surround himself with family he can trust. And, like Coppola's casting of his daughter Sofia in Godfather Part III, this is sometimes a bad idea. But, again like Sofia Coppola, Asia Argento has subsequently redeemed herself with better performances for her father and others and a move behind the camera.)

Not top-drawer Argento by any stretch of the imagination, Trauma nevertheless has enough in it to interest fans of the director. Casual viewers will wonder what the fuss is about and would be best advised starting with Deep Red, to which Trauma can only be regarded as a minor companion piece.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2002
Share this with others on...
Trauma packshot
Italian horror maestro Dario Argento's American venture.
Amazon link

Director: Dario Argento

Writer: Dario Argento, T.E.D Klein

Starring: Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento, Laura Johnson, James Russo, Brad Dourif, Frederick Forrest, Piper Laurie

Year: 1993

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database: