There is something about horror films from the 70’s that will always hold a close place in my heart. I was born in the mid-80’s so I missed this deliciously campy horror era, but like many other horror fans, I love exploring these older classics where you can be sure to expect intense visualizations, artistic camera work, original soundtracks, and gore… lots and lots of gore.
Dario Argento is arguably one of the best horror directors of his time. Sure, he has had some majors disappointments (ahem, Dracula 3D), but he also has some of the most memorable films ever including Suspiria, Tenebre, and Deep Red. Deep Red’s plot itself is not that inventive, but a lot of the old “who dun it” films usually aren’t. What’s really important is the story Argento paints through his imaginative and creative eye. Let’s talk more about that later, but first here is a little bit about the plot…
Telepathic Olga holds extraordinary powers, seeing things the moment they occur and the thoughts of others. Unfortunately, she cannot read the future because if she could she would know that she gets brutally murdered by the person whose mind she reads. Marcus and his drunk, fellow musician friend walk the dark streets of Rome when they hear Olga’s scream. Marcus witnesses this gruesome death from below Olga’s high-rise apartment and may have even seen the killer himself. Marcus teams up with a quirky female reporter, who manages to flirt and emasculate him at the same time, to solve the crime.
I will admit that the story seems to drag a bit. It sometimes seems more interested in the humorous sexual tension between the main characters than it does about the actual killings. It also didn’t help that I watched the original 126 minute uncut version. The film is dubbed in English but the “cut” parts were still in Italian. This made for a confusing time until I realized what was going on. If you are trying to decide which version to watch, choose the shorter version as the edited scenes don’t add much to the story. If you think you are going to see more death scenes that is not the case.
When you watch an Argento film, it is really about the visual experience. His films are notable for the stylized filming- zooming in on details like eyeballs, the killer’s gloves, and sweat dripping down faces. The erratic and winding camera angles tell its own story with themes of subconsciousness. Deliberately vivid and fitful colors are strewn throughout Argento’s films, especially with the bright red blood. It may look artificial but it makes a shocking statement.
Once the killer is revealed, the ending comes too soon. The movie has a far too slow pace to abruptly end like that. Let’s be honest though, the reason I like this movie is for the awesome death scenes. Hacking body parts with a butcher’s cleaver, head smashing by car tire and a sweet decapitation scene are what I’m talking about. Blood galore. Too bad these scenes are few and far between in this long film, but it is definitely worth the watch.
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