Friday, October 17, 2014

Deep Red (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Malleus Rock Art Lab
Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 9 – Deep Red (1975)

I really loved Dario Argento's Suspiria for its intense atmosphere and absurdly vibrant visuals, and in that sense Deep Red is a very odd and almost disappointing follow-up. This film actually came out first, but I watched them in reverse order, which is not something I would recommend. Deep Red is much more restrained and character-driven than the atmospheric indulgence of Suspiria, and I think it's a much more subtle access point into the director's filmography. Because of that, however, I had to spend the first half hour or so readjusting my expectations.

The clearest stand-out comes from the cinematography. The camera is intelligently self-conscious about its framing and movements, both in terms of delivering information to the audience and maintaining a high level of suspense. We see the antagonist murder their victims—occasionally even through their eyes—without ever seeing their face, until the final moments of the film where it's revealed in a way that's distinctly simple but haunting.

And maybe that's a good way to describe this film in general: simple but haunting. Its technique in telling this story about a man possessed by his search for a mysterious murderer contains understated Hitchcockian flourishes, primarily in showing the audience information it withholds from its characters. It also dwells on scenes with characters trying to put together the puzzle pieces they've gathered so far, a technique often used by David Fincher to create tension and get inside his character's heads. Deep Red doesn't feel as distinctly Argento as Suspiria, but it uses these methods which you can find in other great thrillers effectively. It might not stand out as much, but it succeeds admirably in what it does.

There are also some smaller aspects of the film I found compelling. It has fairly unique sexual politics: the protagonist is always trying to show how men are better than women while his girlfriend constantly proves him wrong. It focuses on the difficulty of language barriers by featuring characters whose native languages range from Italian to English to German, not to mention those who communicate psychically. Its editing seems to purposefully end scenes a few uncomfortable moments before they're completely finished, and of course its soundtrack (which was again composed by Goblin) really brings the film to life.

Overall Deep Red is definitely a film I'd recommend to anyone interested in horror, murder mysteries, or the Italian giallo movement, I would just recommend viewers familiar with Argento's work to not go in expecting the same type of atmospheric surrealism he created in Suspiria. As for myself, Dario Argento is still the best thing I've discovered in this horror marathon so far, and I can't wait to explore more of his filmography.

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Octoberfest Horrorthon
Tracking 2014: New Discoveries | All Together

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