This year, Dario Argento’s 1977 film Suspiria was remade by Luca Guadagnino. It’s only fitting that the Brattle Theatre screens one of his other excellent films, Deep Red, during their Holiday Adjacent series. Only one scene takes place during the holidays, but it is a treat of a film for horror fans. Argento’s influence among later creators is expressed a lot due to his beautiful camera work, lighting, and the way he presents the tense moments that hide in his work. Deep Red is among his finest.
Upon initial viewing, as with other Argento films, the murderer was a mystery to me. He places red herrings throughout his scenes that had me second-guessing my predictions; I would think I had it all figured out, when he’d toss me another clue to the horror. Oddly enough, I saw the killer early on, which leads to an excellent reveal. This reveal is both rewarding and visually spectacular. The various locales during the film offer a great use of camera work. Argento’s eye for capturing large spaces that make the protagonist feel more vulnerable is evident here. During the moments when our hero (played by David Hemmings) is investigating an abandoned mansion, there’s always suspense. The rot on the walls, the creaking of the floorboards, and hidden bloody messages create a great backdrop on the already macabre work.
As much as I adore Goblin’s score to Suspiria, their work in Deep Red reminds me of a groovy ’70s cop show. Their performance perfectly pairs with the film. The groovy, tense music is often paired with brutal murders. These slasher moments show off the grotesque visual effects that Argento constantly brings to his films. Not one murder is just your average knife-to-the-heart. Heads burst, wind up dolls are used as decoys, and a bath tub becomes your worst nightmare. Special effects artist Germano Natali worked on both Deep Red and Suspiria. His work astounds me. The bath tub murder gave me nightmares afterwards, and I kept squirming in my seat watching it all happen. As much Argento’s direction is vital to the horror, Natali and others bring his gruesome vision to life.
In a horror movie, you should be able to strip away the scares and macabre moments to find a great film. Argento weaves together a mystery I was invested in from beginning to end. Other aspects of the film, such as the score and performances, enhance his ability as a director. Anyone can make a slasher flick. Argento, in my mind, creates much more than a scary movie. He makes you feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, and anxious to leave the theater. Dig through his filmography if you have not already. The screening at the Brattle is a perfect way to see the film for the first time.
dir. Dario Argento
Screens Friday, 12/14, 10:00pm @ Brattle Theatre
Part of the ongoing series: Holiday Adjacent