Regardless of what legendary giallo pioneer Dario Argento’s finest film is — I wager that most would say Suspiria, but Inferno gets a lot of love too — it’s hard to deny that his lurid, grotesque murder mystery Deep Red is among the most visually potent “slasher” movies of all time. That title, it must be said, is wildly appropriate: the red stuff flows freely and often.
Arguably, Argento’s early career is a high-water mark for Italian horror cinema. He emerged a force of nature, perhaps the most respected director of his kind since Mario Bava; he’s the master behind a stunning run of horror classics. But for me, it’s Deep Red that I keep coming back to: it may be the perfect marriage of the director’s main aesthetic principles. It never (well, rarely) sacrifices a linear, always-in-motion plot for its hypnotic imagery and blood-soaked visuals.
Of course, the plot is secondary. But it’s there, and it’s important to note that — many of Argento’s most celebrated works eventually abandon their paper-thin plots and dive face-first into Argento’s addling, addictive visual sense. In Deep Red, a jazz pianist played by David Hemmings finds himself entangled in a series of brutal murders; those murders are what makes Deep Red the unsung triumph of cinema that it is.
These are some of the most beautifully-shot, dynamically mounted murders ever filmed. The psychic impaled on shards of broken glass? Riveting. The bathroom murder with clues scrawled on the steamy wall? Ingenious.Deep Red is difficult to write about — much of its appeal lies in its awe-inspiring imagery, which is difficult to articulate without illustrations or video examples — but in horror circles, it’s on the cusp of becoming one of the most revered Italian horror films of all time.
Also, that pulsating Goblin score. Good God!
Extra Credit: Argento’s Suspiria is lauded as one of the all-time greats. The print I’ve watched twice suffers from terrible audio, which muddles the convoluted story even further, so I’m still reserving judgment until I can hunt down a proper transfer; but if you have a proper transfer at your disposal, it’s worth your while for the first murder alone. (Also fun: Deep Red and yesterday’s movie, Dressed to Kill, makes for a stellar double feature, so do with that as you will.)
More 31 Days of Halloween:
Day 1: May
Day 2: The Night of the Hunter
Day 3: The Descent
Day 4: Night of the Demons
Day 5: Them
Days 6 & 7: Night of the Living Dead // Dawn of the Dead
Day 8: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Day 9: A Tale of Two Sisters
Day 10: When a Stranger Calls // Amusement
Day 11: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Day 12: The Orphanage
Day 13: I Know What You Did Last Summer
Day 14: Dressed to Kill