Monday, September 12, 2011

Pretty Pictures Full of Blood

When it comes to the giallo subgenre of horror, you get slasher movies that are more unique, twisted, and imaginative than the average "Lovely woman gets chased by machete wielding psychopath." Dario Argento was one of the genre's giants, creating many memorable and well crafted giallos. Deep Red, his 1975 film, is one of his more famous creations, although not as well known as Suspiria, which came out only two years later. This movie has a lot in common with Argento's fellow Italian director Mario Bava, who also made a couple of giallos as well and is just as renowned, particularly concerning his cult classics Blood and Black Lace and The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Just like his other giallos, Argento has a brilliant score that only adds to the film's atmosphere and is remarkable. In this case, it is done by Goblin, who also created the eerie score for Suspiria, and was also responsible for the score to George A. Romero's masterwork Dawn of the Dead. Argento of course must have a hapless protagonist, be it male or female-in this case, it is Marcus, played by David Hemmings. Marcus is a lonely jazz pianist who lives in Rome, has an alcoholic buddy, and lives a rather solitary life. It is unfortunate for him that, on a dark and bleak night, that he stumbles into a murder mystery, and also ends up having to deal with a nosy and chatty journalist.

Rather than hop the next plane to America, he decides to stay instead and investigate, which of course has to happen-otherwise the movie wouldn't continue. This is one particular case of the protagonist defying reason, something that happens a lot in not only giallos but also slasher films, too. This is particularly showcased later when Marcus decides to explore a crumbling mansion late at night, all by himself. Luckily for him he's the main character, so nothing really too serious is going to happen to, him. At least for most of the movie, anyways, despite another close call that makes the viewer wonder if Marcus is smart enough to survive.

Not content to merely make a good movie, Argento once again aims for a distinct visual style, although this movie isn't half as gorgeous as Suspiria. These visual flourishes though only add more to the movie's strong levels of tension and suspense, which are added even more by Argento's willingness to go beyond the pale. Many of the movie's rather disturbing scenes are merely Argento diving into fears he was sure plenty of people held at the time, and thus this makes the death scenes all the more horrifying.

Of course it also wouldn't be an Argento movie without a last act that is both shocking, although in this case I would say that this film, for now, features arguably his best and most brazen ending. With Deep Red, Argento crafts one of his best films, and continued to build upon his reputation in the 1970s as one of the top horror auteurs. This is slightly better than Suspiria and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and defiantly superior to Inferno, partly due to Hemmings' brilliant and understated performance, but also due to being a bit better made. The characters in this one are less sketchy than the other films, and really Argento goes the extra mile here, which is decidedly noticeable.

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