I had planned on picking a different film for this week's horror club but Ally's choice of Suspiria last week reminded me how good Giallo horror and in particular Dario Argento is and it really put me in the mood for more. I also was anxious to ensure that Clarky, having not warmed to Suspiria, didn't go away with a dislike for Argento and I wanted him to see another angle from the Italian master. I therefore picked Deep Red - a film that many see as Argento's best work- for horror club this week. I personally think that Suspiria is a better film, but Deep Red is still a masterful example of Argento's unique talent.
For many people this is an Argento masterpiece and a film that he never surpassed. As mentioned above, I believe that Suspiria is a better film, but Deep Red is nevertheless an excellent film and is a good entry point into Giallo and Argento's vision. Deep Red is grounded in more authentic Giallo traditions which grew out of traditional Italian mystery stories. Unlike the supernatural setting of Suspiria, Deep Red takes place within the framework of more recognisable murder mystery stories.
The film follows the adventures of an English musician who witnesses the murder of a famous psychic and sets out to find the identity of the killer. As it is an Argento film the keyword is style. Almost every scene is incredibly shot and some of the camera work is simply stunning. There are no wasted shots in the film and there are very few directors past or present who can match Argento in full flow. There are too many examples to mention to do full justice to the Italian maestro, but the way the camera tracks round the corners of walls and doors in front of the main character in scary moments is a tour de force in creating dread and tension. This dread is masterfully crafted and as a result the viewer thinks something hideous is around every corner.
The murders themselves are - as would be expected in Italian horror - hideous, but are shot with such skill and style that they reach the heights of art. It is in Deep Red we begin to see some of the hallmarks that would be seen in all of Argento's classic work: extreme close-ups of characters and strange, out-of-place items, which draw the viewer into the bizarre and unnerving world being created on screen; the constant presence of running water; the dominance of the colour red; and some of the most unique, strange and downright disturbing imagery ever seen in horror cinema. Deep Red also has a surprisingly coherent story arch, providing what in some ways is a more satisfying viewing experience than some of Argento's more abstract films.
Despite the greatness of this film is is not without its faults and there is a reason that it does not have the impact that Suspiria has. In a way one of the strengths of this film - that it has a more understandable and 'normal' storyline - means that the shocking and unsettleing nature of some of his more abstract inchorent films is less for the viewer. It also has to be said that the Goblin soundtrack for this film is at times a really odd match for the action on screen. Whereas in Suspiria Goblin get things just right and play a major part in the succes of that picture, their funky 70s jazz often seems completely out of place, particularly in scenes that would be scarier with more suitable music. However, these are all very minor complaints and, once again, Argento shows how you make a truly classic horror film.