Controversial by nature, Dario Argento’s horror movies typically hold very little back. His movie villains are true villains — disturbed, violent, and at times cartoonishly evil. Such is the case with Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann), the main villain in “The Stendhal Syndrome.”
Of course, something should be addressed first: What the hell is the Stendhal syndrome, and what does it have to do with our villain? As depicted in the film, it’s a condition where someone viewing artwork becomes overwhelmed by it — even to the point of experiencing hallucinations and fainting.
In this case, the character suffering from the disorder is Detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento). After suffering an attck of the syndrome, she is further victimized by Alfredo Grossi — a sexual sadist, rapist and serial murderer. Undoubtedly, it is a traumatic experience for her, and he is threatening to repeat the attacks again and again.
As you probably guessed, this is a controversial movie, especially when the director’s own daughter plays a victim of sexual violence. Also, some of the CG effects in the movie are a bit outdated (though, to be fair, this was pretty early in the development of such effects). That aside, “The Stendhal Syndrome” is still a memorable movie with a truly evil, Ted Bundy-esque villain. If nothing else, it reminds us that such people are indeed out there, and they seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to detecting moments of weakness in potential victims.