It is hard today to find a horror film that doesn’t reek of exploitation, lack of creativity, a fear within itself of “scaring away” investors or audience members, or a heavy reliance on jump scares (which is not horror, in any sense of the word). One could ask the question whether the horror genre was ever really all that effective in the first place, or has it always simply been an hour and a half of filmmakers throwing images, sound effects, and music at you, hoping to god that something will stick.
The truth of the matter is that it would seem that the horror genre, in a lot of ways, is trying to find that special something that lured audiences in in the first place. The truth of the matter is that horror is a relative experience – filmmakers need to understand that for every personal fear they put up on the screen, there are going to be hundreds of thousands of people with perhaps that same exact fear. And this is why Dario Argento’s Italian giallo-horror ‘Deep Red’ (1975) is so fascinatingly effective.
The story is simple enough: pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is walking home one night when he becomes witness to the murder of a well-known psychic at the hands of a masked psychopath. After speaking with skeptical authorities, he sets himself down a path to uncover the blood thirsty vigilante himself, with the help of quirky reporter Gianna (Daria Nicolodi). But can the two manage to bring the killer to light before they themselves end up on the cutting board?
Argento’s style has always been a little different, focusing more on the visual than the storytelling aspects of film. His, and writer Bernardo Zapponi’s, opinion is that people can’t relate to an act of violence, like someone being shot… rather, you must put your characters into situations (whether it is fear, anger, or pain) that your audience can relate to, and thus a connection starts being built between the two planes of reality (the reality on-screen and the reality of our own lives). One example is when the murderer knocks off one of the narrative’s characters with the help of some table and fireplace corners.
‘Deep Red’, in short, is a fun adventure, and a different experience than what we’re unfortunately forced to sit through today. Viewers unfamiliar with Argento’s work might be a little put off at first – this examiner certainly was, although his ‘Suspiria’ (1977) comes highly recommended – but sitting through the whole film will undoubtedly leave its mark on you. We’ve all had that surreal moment when we’re alone in the house (“did that light socket just wink at me?”) and we can’t help but wonder if we really are alone – Argento makes an effort to bring those moments into the fore. It’s in these brief seconds that his horror really comes to life; that his synthesized rock plays in our mind as we try to dodge the shadows – and sharp corners – and hope that what we perceive to be our final moments have not just been auctioned up to the chopping block.
Special features include an 11-minute interview with director Dario Argento, writer Bernardo Zapponi, and band behind the film’s soundtrack, Goblin; the film’s U.S. and Italian trailers; a Goblin music video set to the film’s soundtrack; and a Daemonia music video, which comes with some nice throwbacks to the original film. There are some interesting moments in the short interview featurette, particularly how ‘Deep Red’ came together, and the filmmakers’ intentions with all the violence and blood work. Of the music videos, although Goblin was the original artist behind the music, I found the artistic agency with which Daemonia applied to the accompanying “story” to be much more interesting. However, you can probably just find these on YouTube.
‘Deep Red’ has been rated X (this is before ‘X’ was traded out for NC-17), mostly for violence. Let’s keep in mind that, although this film might be frightening to some, it was rated by the MPAA in the mid-70s, when this kind of violence was new, offensive, groundbreaking, etc. There is a good amount of blood, but it does not look real. Some of the kills are cringe-inducing, but are nothing (in terms of explicit-ness) compared to your average R-feature being released today. For more information on questionable content within the film, go HERE.
‘Deep Red’ is available at the following retail stores and online markets:
Target – * DVD, $9.79 ; Other option, $9.79
Walmart – * DVD, $7.86 ; Other option, $7.97; Blu-Ray, $15.86
Barnes and Noble – * DVD, $13.49 ; Other option; $13.58 ; Blu-Ray, $26.99
Best Buy – * DVD, $9.99 ; Other option, $12.99
Amazon – * DVD, $6.19 ; Other option, $6.22; Blu-Ray, $15.99
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