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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Deep Red (1975)

Rating: 3.5/4

When stylized violence meets a patient plot a horror film becomes much more than just an entertaining time. Shot in slasher movie style, but avoids glamorizing the violence while still making it very entertaining for gore freaks. Dario Argento creates blood-soaked ugly murders that are meticulously plotted with a dash of sloppy execution that reminds us of that even with the most organized murder attempts there is never any real organization is something so unnatural. Not that this movie is meant to be viewed in a realistic point-of-view, I'm not saying that, at all. Argento puts a supernatural feeling into most of his films, most notably with Suspiria (1977), where a cult of witches reek havoc on an acclaimed dance academy. Deep Red's mysterious murderer always seems to know exactly when and who to kill, which takes away from the realism but makes the plot all the more suspenseful and engrossing.

An odd, and plenty outrageous, plot that actually works very well. Outrageousness and horror movies go hand-in-hand so when a film actually uses that to its advantage it is very easy to look past the moments where slight moments in the plot don't work out so well. Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is a very safe character to have leading this film. His character is a dedicated pianist who witnesses psychic Helga Ullmann being murdered. Then he decides that he is going to risk his life and the lives of everyone he comes in contact with by going on a dedicated search for the murderer. First it is his friend fellow pianist, and closet homesexual Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), who is nearby when the murder happens, that Marcus, for the moment, briefly involves. Carlo ends up being a significant player in this murderous game and also one of the colorful ones. What Argento lacks in the characterization department he more than makes up for with wonderful oddity.

Deep Red marks the first collaboration between Argento and the Italian progressive rock band Goblin, with whom Argento would collaborate with many more times in his career. Unlike their future films together Deep Red has a more fast-paced adrenaline powered score than a dark haunting score. Suspiria's demonic chanting along with loud beats caused unbearable suspense while this film's guitar powered score is more thrilling than scary. Goblin's musical style perfectly works with Argento's colorful constantly exploring direction. A perfect artistic match which, arguably, made both artist's careers what they ended up becoming.

Each set becomes a character all on its own. Dark atmosphere with visual gimmicks some, if mentioned, could end up ruining this very interesting story of regret turning into madness. One of the locations that end up becoming their own characters is a derelict house that holds many vital clues to the identity of the murderer. The house falls apart at very chance moments making it a real challenge for Marcus to find what he is looking for. Windows falling right as he passes, ledges cracking right as he discovers something new and rooms blocked by fallen dressers. Just like a person desperately trying to hide their secrets.

As his first, noticeably, critically acclaimed film Deep Red features some of the best acting in any of his films to date. David Hemmings is reliable as Marcus Daly along with along with Daria Nicolodi as determined reporter Gianna Brezzi. Keep in mind that supporting characters can have the biggest impact, you will learn that that is real food-for-thought. Argento's style is more reserved and his storytelling is more organized creating one, balanced, gore-filled thrill ride with a modest twist ending.


  1. This looks interesting and it's on my list. Great review!

  2. Yes sometimes ratings can be annoying but at the end its the person's words about it that matter. You liked this and it shows, and I agree with you. I wrote a few things about it a few days ago, but you nailed it! Indeed its like the setting is anthropomorphic and on self-defense. I also found the camera to move around like an integral part of the characters. Yes Goblin's music is spectacular and adds up to the overall thrills. The direction and cinematography are amazing and artistic. I really like it, and its one of my favorites from Argento, with Suspiria being #1. Excellent review and cool blog ;)