Tuesday, October 14, 2008

31 Days Of Horror. Day #5: Deep Red

You’ve gotta love The Italians. Be it Westerns, Epics, or Horror movies, Italian filmmakers always seem to have a way of saying “You’re doing it wrong!” by making their films ten times as crazy as anyone else. A film like Deep Red has more truly crazy shit in it’s first five minutes then most American films have in their runtimes. Opening with a guy getting knifed to death infront of a Christmas tree and kid, then moving on to a protagonist switcheroo worthy of Hitchcock, before a fetishtic murder preperation, that would make David Lynch swoon, all climaxing a spectacularly bloody murder via meat clever and window. Then the credits roll.

Blow Up’s David Hemmings plays an American Jazz Pianist who witnesses the death of Swedish psychic in Italy. Instead of lounging about Mod culture and drowning in ennui, he instead tries to solve the case with the help of an intrepid Lois Lane type.

Argento’s detractors say he’s a hack whose movies don’t pay attention to little things like character, plot, sense, or common human decency. And while it’s true that Argento has largely devolved into Self Parody, anything he’s done post 1987 is pretty much a wash (though I do have a bizarre affection for his batshit loony Masters Of Horror episode Pelts). But at his best Argento’s films couple a crazed sensuality with an unparelled knack to make the utterly ludicrous completely believable and the grotesque strangely beautiful. When someone gets decapitated in Argento film you may flinch but at the same time you’re oddly impressed.

The trick that Argento pulls here is he makes each of the killings relatable. Let’s face it most of us can’t relate to the feeling of being cut up with a bucksaw by a gibbering madman, we simply have no frame of reference. But most of us do know what it’s like to scald ourselves, or bark or shin on the coffee table, or get caught on something. What Argento does is he simply takes these common accidents and raises them to the ultimate degree. Each of the killings draws on a common sense memory, the result is that half seeing Deep Red in a large theater, as I was lucky enough to do is watching your fellow 200 or so patrons positively writhe as shit gets worse then they could possibly imagine.

All the work of the Argento touch, before the movies done you’ll see an Evil doll that makes the one from Saw look about as terrifying as Elmo, a haunted mansion, a sadistic little girl, entombed bodies, novelty decapitations, and even a little time for discussion of Jazz theory and gender roles. A Good Time Will Be Had By All.

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