Day 17: Deep Red (1975)

Charles 2016, 31 Days of Horror, Classics, Giallo, Part 4, Reviews Leave a Comment

For Day 17 this year, we’ll be jumping right into the “Giallo” film world with Dario Argento’s Deep Red!!
Now, I suspect many of you aren’t familiar with the “Giallo” style. To be honest, I wasn’t either. But it seemed that everytime I began doing serious research into horror film history, certain movies kept popping up again and again. Suspiria is one of those films, as well as Blood and Black Lace and Deep Red.
And they’re all attributed to this Italian “Giallo” genre.
So, what were these films from Italy? And why are they constantly cited?
Well, “giallo” means “yellow” in Italian, and it refers to the color of the cover of certain crime / mystery paperback novels in Italy. These novels often shared many similar elements with these “giallo” movies, including masked killers and a certain amount of eroticism, even if the stories weren’t directly adapted into the movies. The movies themselves were usually quite gory, or at least shockingly violent, and they had a really beautiful cinematic style which included bold color palettes and creative camerawork. The music often felt disorientating because it was often juxtaposed with what was occurring on screen, meaning it might have had happy or cheerful music playing while someone was being stabbed to death. But they almost always had a mysterious killer attacking people one-by-one, and it was often women that were being attacked while particularly vulnerable (nude, for example). If that sounds familiar, it’s because these movies heavily inspired the American “slasher” film genre, in particular films like Halloween and Friday the 13th.
The plot for Deep Red falls right in line with “Giallo” films. An English musician in Italy witnesses the gruesome murder pf a clairvoyant woman (who previously had visions of the murderer) one night while he’s out with his friend. He teams up with a reporter to try and figure out who the killer is, and in doing so, the killer begins to go after both of them, while also continuing on a murder spree. Where will this murderer strike next? And can anything be done before it’s too late?
I have to say, I REALLY enjoyed this movie.
My wife and I watched it with our friend Toby, and shortly into the movie, he proclaimed it was literally one of the worst movies he’s ever seen (in his best Chris Traeger impression, no less).
Granted, it does take a while to get into it, and the music is very odd (even if it is popular) but I flat-out disagree with him.
There are moments of pure brilliance here, including some fantastic camera movements. For instance, in one particularly wide shot, we are watching a couple discuss details of a murder that had just occurred in the house they’re in. It’s all in one long take, and at the conclusion of the conversation, the lady, who is at the end of the hallway, looks up in our direction right at the camera. The camera quickly moves to the left to duck out of her view, and at that moment we realize that we have been staring through the eyes of (presumably) the killer the entire conversation. It literally gives me chills just thinking about it.
Another moment like that? When a man is playing piano at home by himself and hears someone in the other room. As he knows the killer has been after him, he continues to play while also quietly reaching for an object to hopefully defend himself. The phone suddenly goes off and he rushes to the bedroom door to slam it shut. Just as he does so, he hears the killer whispering to him from the other room that he’ll kill him another time. Eeeesh!!!
I also love that the movie messes with us. It’s revealed in a flashback that the movie actually showed us who the killer was immediately after the first murder. Since this whole thing plays out like a whodunnit (complete with a twist ending), having seen the killer’s face that early would have instantly given it away, but somehow, this movie did just that and we were none-the-wiser. I even watched it again to see if it was lying to us during that flashback, but sure enough, the killer is actually revealed and quite clearly, too. That’s confident filmmaking at its finest.
Then there’s the whole aspect of the mechanical doll that is used as a distraction. It is very clearly the inspiration for the similar device in Saw and it was amazing to see it here, nearly 30 years earlier.
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So, absolutely check out this movie as well as the other “Giallo” films. They’re worth your time, especially if you already enjoy slasher movies.
On a complete side note: Why do the background extras stand perfectly still in certain scenes during Deep Red? Is there any significance to that? Because it can be quite distracting at times (and is another reason Toby didn’t like this movie). There’s even a bar in the background of one shot that resembles that Nighthawks painting by Edward Hopper… and again, the extras are all completely and eerily frozen.
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Tomorrow, Kelley will be reviewing Ridley Scott’s Alien so you’ll want to be here for that as she closes out the 1970s!!

CharlesDay 17: Deep Red (1975)

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