John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today, director Dario Argento helps define a genre with one of his greatest works.
I have trouble coming up with a better slasher mystery than Deep Red. It’s incredible. The kills are jarring, yet never become pornographic. The identity of the killer keeps you guessing until the very end. The camera work is rich with constant movement and elegance. The soundtrack is terrific. It’s practically the perfect thriller.
When a musician witnesses the murder of a well-known psychic, he becomes entangled in horrific investigation that leads to more death. Along the way we meet an array of strange characters, each with a possible connection to the murderer.
I love the feel of this movie. Dario Argento creates a world that is emotionally cold, but with flashes of color and personality. The camera brings it all to life with its tracking shots and movement. Sometimes he’ll switch to the perspective of the killer without prepping you for it. Sometimes he’ll tease you with a long pause on an open window. Is the killer hiding in the bushes? There’s the scene where three women are just hanging out in the background while our hero works out the plot details with a friend. Perhaps one of the three ladies is listening in on the conversation or are they just a red herring? The clues are subtle, but they are there. I changed my mind several times throughout the picture as to the identity of the serial killer. In the end, the reveal is satisfying and lives up to the anticipation.
This is considered a giallo, an Italian genre that combines elements of mystery and horror... and there are some horrific deaths that are painful to watch here. Apparently when Argento and his co-writer were kicking around ideas for the murders, they wanted to come up with deaths that the viewer could relate with. One character is scalded in a bathtub of steaming hot water. Another is stabbed in the back of the neck. The psychic at the beginning of the movie is shredded by broken glass. Few people have ever been shot by a gun, but everyone knows the feel of getting burned by hot water or getting pricked by a sharp object. This greatly factors into the death scenes, making them intense both visually and psychologically.
Goblin, an Italian progressive rock band provides the soundtrack. The score reinforces the tension in each scene. There’s the repetitive high-pitch strings, much like John Carpenter would use later in Halloween. That segues into a modern rock arrangement with a creepy pipe organ as the headliner. It’s a marvelous throwback to classic horror, but with a stylish twist that plays perfectly in the background as the killer handles strange objects that give clues to his or her past.
While the film has its imperfections, they are quickly forgiven. Argento has created a masterwork of terror and mystery that few films can rival. Deep Red is a certifiable classic.
Deep Red is streaming on Amazon. It’s also available on a Blu-ray here.
Check back in tomorrow for the final installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews as a rescue mission in space goes awry when an alien stowaway begins killing the ship’s crew.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#14 The Catman of Paris
#17 Werewolf of London
#18 Tales from the Hood
#19 The Keep
#20 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
#22 Night of the Living Dead
#23 Pit and the Pendulum
#24 Tucker and Dale vs Evil
#25 The Stuff
#26 Creature from the Black Lagoon
#27 Planet of the Vampires
#29 Bloody Birthday
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