Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 17

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:

 87. Deep Red (1975- dir. Dario Argento)

Dario Argento bridges Italian giallo (graphic, lurid crime stories) and pure horror with Deep Red. David Hemmings is Marcus Daly, a music teacher with a P.I.’s curiosity who gets sucked into investigating the murder of a medium when he witnesses her getting smashed through her apartment window. The murders are absolutely awful, particularly that initiating one. If you’re at all squeamish about broken glass, you may find it nearly impossible to watch. Argento intensifies such scenes by presenting them from the killer’s perspective with roaming, first-person shots, making the viewer feel uncomfortably complicit in the violence. Deep Red is also beautiful. Argento’s obsession with vivid color doesn’t end with the buckets of Sherwin-Williams blood spilled throughout the picture. Nor is the horror all of the graphically gross sort. The children’s song that is the killer’s calling card is way eerie in the tradition of the Rosemary’s Baby theme. A mechanical puppet makes an appearance for no other reason than its extreme creepiness. Argento gives us some much-needed breaks from the tension by introducing an appealing romance between Marcus and reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). Though Argento cops out a bit in the end, their charming arm-wrestling match is a playful subversion of ‘70s cinematic sexism. Argento also introduces a red herring that seems expressly designed to tease his audience’s homophobic assumptions. Of course, Argento has always been more bent on administering visceral thrills than enlightenment. In his goal to do so, he makes one major misstep by having Goblin score the film with agitated prog-funk that totally shatters the mood whenever it starts farting from the soundtrack. Argento’s taste in music is often questionable, but good taste is not really paramount in a flick full of throat gouging, decapitation, and bathtub boiling.  

See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 1970s here.
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