Friday, October 1, 2010

31 days, 31 faves: Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)

October is here, finally. Meaning for me, it's not only my favorite time of the year, but a month-long celebration of my (and probably yours if you're reading this) favorite holiday.

Each year here on FWF, it's a goal to try to think of something to do to commemorate Halloween - a month-long theme - and this year is no exception. So I've decided to simply pick 31 of my favorite horror movies and do a (sometimes restrained) review and let you know a few reasons why I love it so much.

And while I am busy writing for other sites and guest posting here and there (because everybody picks October to dish out the good stuff), I shall try my damnedest to get these posts up. They will be in no particular order - that's just too freaking hard for me.

First up, an Argento favorite of mine.

Boasting a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Profondo Rosso (a.k.a. Deep Red; a.k.a. The Hatchet Murders) is probably considered director Dario Argento's most famous and significant work. But why is it special to me?

Well, when I was a teenager and looking through the racks at the video store, I always gravitated toward the most graphic VHS covers. Even then, I was a gore-hound, and the cover of Deep Red was nasty enough to hit my carnage meter fairly quick. I grabbed it up, and headed home to experience something I'd never yet seen. Beautiful death.
I've written about this and Dario Argento at greater length here, and rambled on about it here, so I won't go any further into that subject. But suffice it to say, it was my first experience with Argento, which essentially means I've been watching his films for over 25 years. Lucky me!

Deep Red starts with the audience being witness to a struggle and eventual murder as seen by a small child. Nothing more is given to us, and we are left to wonder how that sequence will prove to be important. We see the shadows of fighting adults, hear a small child's erratic breathing, see a bloody knife, and wonder why on earth the kid is dressed like something out of an Austrian musical. We assume, however, that this has happened in the past, once the film continues on.

Moving into the present, we witness the murder of Helga (Macha Meril), a renowned psychic. Just prior to her death, she was addressing a theater audience and got a strange sensation (okay, she quite literally freaks out) that someone in the audience was a murderer. This proves true indeed, as she is violently dispatched in the next five minutes of the film.
We then see British musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), who just happens to be walking alone on a deserted street when he overhears Helga's frantic screams of distress. Running to her aid, he is unable to get there in time to save her life, but once inside the apartment building where the murder takes place, he sees what he thinks may have been the killer's reflection in a group of pictures on the wall. Alas, though - he has an unfortunate case of short term memory loss.

Part of the mystery of the film is Marcus's dismay at not being able to remember what he believes to be a vital clue in the murder investigation.
He meets up with Gianna (Daria Nicolodi, in terrific form here), a spitfire of a reporter who Marcus not only teams up with to investigate, but also begins a rather comical romance with. The scenes of the two of them cramming themselves into Gianna's tiny car is amusing as hell.

With the daunting task of trying to recall that important tidbit of information, Marcus is taken on a roller coaster ride of confusion that certainly Argento is rather famous for. In flashbacks we come to understand that the opening scenes involving the horrific murder has taken place in someone's past - but the real treat of the film is figuring out just what happened, and just who did it, so we're right there alongside Marcus when he finally discovers the truth.

The voyeuristic camera work (perhaps done better only in Tenebrae) heightens your sense of fear and forboding as Marcus and Gianna dig further into a mystery that the killer is determined to keep buried.
Imagery, as is paramount in Argento's films, takes priority here as well, giving us not only loads of the red stuff, but creepy dolls (for which I will never forgive him, I can still conjure up a pretty good nightmare from that one menacing puppet!), bloody knives in the hands of children, creepy old houses with disturbing drawings hiding behind the plaster (let alone what else is hiding behind those walls!), and ghastly deaths - he's got it all going on, and it's amazing. And surprisingly, the plot and narratives are actually better here than most of his films. It's just a total package.

While discussing Deep Red, I would be remiss not to mention one of my favorite things about the film: the music. Naturally, Goblin is again at the wheel and that damned 'children's theme' is an ear-worm of epic proportions. Once it's in your head you'll take it to your grave, it's just that kind of tune. And the music that plays in the background each time Marcus seems to be remembering an important tidbit is as calculating and macabre as it gets. While I won't say the score is as good as Suspiria, it's very memorable.

The same can be said of the film itself. It's one of my go-to movies for a late Saturday night when I need a little of the red stuff.

1 comment:

Jenny Spencer said...

I love this film. It was the first Argento film that I ever saw, and I was pleasantly caught unprepared by its unique style and fantastic soundtrack. I too was traumatized by that puppet (and continue to be), as well as the final scene with the elevator. I certainly didn't see that coming. Wonderful article! Can't wait to see what else you have lined up for the rest of the month :)