I was looking forward to Horror Club this week after unfortunately having a week off last week when I was on holiday. I don't like to cause HC to miss a week, especially when I felt that things have really, finally, started to get interesting this season and we had hit our stride.
Fortunately my week off only seemed to increase everyones hunger for their weekly horror fix and also allowed Fin to source a niche horror DVD.
When he showed me the box I was struck by two things. One, how gorgeous the box was and I was intrigued to see the film and how balls out the cover was. Apparently you can get posters of this, what kind of a weirdo would have this up in their house!
The second was that it was another Argento film. I think this is the first time in horror club history that we have had two films from the same director back to back, and given my review of Suspiria this unfortunately did not fill me with confidence.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate Suspiria, but I didn't love it either. I did find it intriguing and there were some parts that I was genuinely in awe of, but I found it so weird and incoherent that I struggled with the film as a whole. Fin informed me that this had a more coherent story line and so I went in with an open mind but also some niggling fears.
Thankfully my fears were totally unfounded. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and strangely enough part of this was due to the fact that we had just watched Suspiria. This film sets the template for Argento and Suspiria and you get a real feel for his directorial sensibilities that he would go on to further in his later film, taking everything up a notch to the nth degree. There are plenty of motifs that are represented within both films including : running water, the colour red and reflections at key moments in the film. There is even a scene involving a high overview shot of a courtyard, as in Suspiria. And there are obviously some hideously graphic death scenes and (yet another) women getting her head smashed through a window! Watching these films back to back was an inspired choice by Fin and really made these similarities even more prominent in my mind.
This film was also Argento's first collaboration with Goblin (who provided the incredible soundtrack to Suspiria as well). Whilst there were some elements of the sound track that seemed strange, this was more due to a problem with what was on screen. At certain times I felt like this was a comedy - particularly the scenes in the car and some of the scenes with the female reporter.
Thankfully, these scenes are few and far between, and the remaining scenes are so creepy and unsettling that they are quickly forgotten, and actually provide some much needed respite from the tension.
Almost every shot is framed in such away that you feel like something is going to jump out the corner of the shot. It is unbearable at times. Argento plays hi jinks with a lot of horror conventions and fills every scene with a sense of dread and unease. There are also a number of shots from the killers point of view, a relatively new technique at the time, implicating the viewer in the actions of the murderer and drawing them further into the film. This is probably most effective in the drowning scene in the bath which is a deeply disturbing watch.
This film also includes some of the creepiest dolls in the history of film ever. They make Chucky and that thing from Saw look like Care Bears. I haven't been this unsettled after watching a film for a while (for some reason this makes it a good film in my eyes!).
As hinted at earlier, Deep Red is a more coherent film than Suspiria, but the plot is still fairly flimsy. This didn't seem to bother me as much this time for some reason, and even though its a "murder mystery" I didn't actually spend much time thinking about who the killer was, and wasn't too distracted by the (in hindsight) shocking red herrings, I was just enjoying the film.
I really enjoyed this film, so much so that I think I will have to give Suspiria another chance. For any horror affecionado out there who has not seen Argento and is looking for something new. I would strongly recommend Deep Red as an entry level Argento film before moving onto some of his stronger stuff. Not only will you find an incredible looking film with some really tense, scary moments, but you will also witness the most offensive toast in movie history and the biggest flamer at Horror Club (since seeing the one MacReady used in The Thing).