Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)

Film: Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

My viewing of Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) comes with a number of caveats. The first is that I initially tried to watch it on one of the weird little channels I have access to on the Roku. It was Midnight Movies or Drive-In Classics, or something like that. I actually got through a pretty good portion of it that way, but I found the experience frustrating. On whatever channel that was, the film stopped for commercials every 10 minutes on the dot regardless of what was happening on the screen. Middle of a conversation, right at the moment of someone being killed. Hell, in the middle of a word sometimes. So, eventually, I went to a version I found online which was of lower quality, but was ultimately shown without breaks.

The other caveat here is that Deep Red occurs in multiple versions. The original release is slightly over two hours long, but the American release is about 101 minutes. The excised portions are evidently comedy and romance portions and were never dubbed into English. So, while I may have missed some of the movie, I’m at least convinced that I watched the entire American release of the film.

Anyway, Deep Red is an Argento film, the one he made before Suspiria, and it’s very clear that this is from the same filmmaker. There are a lot of similar elements visually, stylistically, story-wise, and in the fact that the soundtrack features the tremendous work of Goblin. There’s a number of slashy murders the feature Argento’s signature red paint-as-blood, weird dialogue, and a plot that mostly goes where it wants to but doesn’t really get all the way there. So, typical Argento.

Pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings), while walking with his friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) when he witnesses the brutal murder of a psychic named Helga Ulmann (Macha Meril). For whatever reason (and this is pretty much what I mean when I say that Argento’s plots leave a lot to be desired), Marcus gets involved in the investigation along with a psychologist/parapsychologist named Dr. Giordani (Glauco Mauri) and report/Sarah Jessica Parker impersonator Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi).

What follows is a slow build of Marcus finding a series of clues that lead to the possible identity of the murderer as well as a deep dive into some Freudian psychology. He discovers evidence of an old murder, and it seems that suddenly, years after the fact, people who are even tangentially related to that murder are turning up dead. In each case, the murder is prefaced by a disturbing children’s tune that the killer plays from a tape recorder as a part of what is evidently a strange murder ritual. As bodies keep appearing, Marcus and Gianna slowly close in on the actual identity of the killer, but continue to put their lives in danger as they get closer.

Whether or not you’d get something valuable out of Deep Red really comes down to what you bring to the movie in the first place. If you’re looking for something with a few interesting murders and a little bit of gore, this is going to be something that pleases you pretty well. Several of the deaths (there are five or six total) are pretty inventive. If you’re looking for a coherent plot that actually makes any sense in the real world, you need to look elsewhere. A lot happens here that happens only because the film specifically needs it to happen when it does and how it does. For instance, Marcus tracks down a book that appears to have some connection to this old murder. There’s no really clear indication that these two cases are related (they are), but Marcus assumes they are and tracks down the author of the book. Simultaneously, the killer somehow determines that this author, who wrote the book years before, suddenly needs to die so that she’s dead just when Marcus shows up at her house.

And that’s the real issue here. As a viewer, you need to either make a series of logical leaps that aren’t warranted by anything that happens in the film or you need to simply turn off your brain and let the film happen around you.

Argento is stylish and his films are visually interesting. He’s not a bad director in a lot of respects. The problem is that he’s not a very good screenwriter because his stories don’t hang together well and contain massive holes and required leaps of logic. If he were more coherent, I’d like his work a hell of a lot more. I always want to like Argento’s films. I just never like them nearly as much as I would like to.

Why to watch Deep Red: Some stylish deaths and a few genuinely creepy elements.
Why not to watch: Argento’s reputation is better than Argento’s films.


  1. I was tired while watching this, so the illogical leaps played a bit of havoc with my brain - I am glad to know it wasn't just me! The best parts of the film are the murders, and they get increasingly violent and bloody: I did turn away from the screen a few times.

    Did you guess who the murderer was? I thought I had it from the start, then the reveal happened and I saw how wrong I was.

    1. Honestly, not getting it seems to be a theme for me with Italian horror movies. There's a lot that seems to happen for the visual effect that doesn't necessarily go with the plot we're given in general.

      I probably guessed wrong. I don't really remember.