Deep Red is much different for those who only know Argento from Suspiria.
As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
When you hear the names Dario Argento and Goblin, chances are you think of one movie – and with good reason. The original Suspira is a timeless classic thanks to the collaboration between the two. Two years before they would team on the iconic Italian horror film, they worked for the first time on Deep Red. Though not as well known, their debut collaboration may be just as good.
Deep Red is much different for those who only know Argento from Suspiria. Unlike the latter film, Deep Red takes a much more grounded approach. Early in the film there is a woman who claims to be able to use telepathy, but this is nothing more than a plot device that jump starts the film. The movie itself is more of a whodunit than a spooky movie.
This is not to say Deep Red is not frightening. It can be argued it is even more scary than Argento’s more supernatural infused stories since the violence here is real, if over the top. Argento delivers the film’s scares effectively through its pacing. In many slasher flicks, the movie will follow the standard flow of kill, talking, kill, talking, kill, sex, final girl, and shocking conclusion. Deep Red tells a deeper story that has its share of kills but is filled with moments of character development in between.
The kills are pure Argento – a mixture of gore, creativity, and silliness. The killer in Deep Red seems to never be satisfied with just a simple murder and has to make them as gruesome and bloody as possible. Argento’s direction shines here as the graphic killings never comes off as superfluous. The camera work gives as much insight into the killer as any narrative. The first person perspective from the unknown assailant shows a desperation that makes sense after the killer’s identity is revealed.
Argento also does an excellent job framing shots. There is not as much use of the vivid color schemes that Argento is known for, though the opening lives up to the film’s title. (That being said, there is great use of shadows and, of course, pools of blood.) Instead, the director uses setting and interiors to maximum effect. There are shots down long corridors and maximum use is made of large public areas. The film is absolutely beautiful.
A running theme through Deep Red is the battle between the sexes. This comes as no surprise since many giallo are quick to use sexuality. What separates Argento’s film is the lack of titillation and the many discussions between Marcus and Gianna. Marcus constantly tells Gianna women are physically and intellectually inferior, which Gianna always laughs off.
What makes the exchanges between the two more surprising is the fact that Gianna is constantly getting the better of Marcus. From being a step ahead of him as they try to capture the killer to literally beating him in an arm wrestling match, Gianna proves to be the equal of Marcus. This is a welcome surprise in a movie from 1975.
While Goblin’s soundtrack is nowhere near as memorable as the work they would do in Suspiria, it is still very impressive. The use of synth adds to the movie’s tension and works during moments when Argento is just setting a mood. It is a little odd to hear progressive rock so prominently in a movie in which the lead character is a jazz pianist, however.
Deep Red is another great collaboration between director Dario Argento and Goblin. The movie is more of a mystery than what Argento would become most known for, but the great writing and excellent score make it a must watch.