Oh boy, here we go again. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, time I’ve talked about that crazy weird Italian horror film maker Dario Argento. This time, we’re going back to the time before Suspiria, which I never even thought existed. Alright, that’s not true, but it was strange seeing what came before that one since I consider Suspiria to be the go to film for Argento. Two years before Suspiria there was a movie that many say is Argento’s best film, Deep Red. While there are a lot of great things in Deep Red that foreshadowed what excellent things this director was capable of, I felt that this movie lost its focus way to often to be really taken seriously.
During a performance, psychic Helga Ullman (Macha Meril) begins sensing very violent thoughts being sent to her by someone in the audience. Later on that night, she is brutally murdered with the only witness being jazz pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings). Soon, Daly makes himself part of the investigation along with the persistent journalist Gianna (Daria Nicolodi), but it aways seems like whenever the two find a clue or a lead, someone involved ends up dead in the most discomforting of ways. As the bodies begins to pile and resources being to run out, Marcus and Gianna begin to seriously wonder how the murderer seems to always be one step ahead of them, and also how long they will stay alive in order to uncover the twisted mystery of the murderer’s past.
Depending on which version you see, you may have different takes on the movie. I saw the completely uncut version which runs a little over two hours. For some people who know me through this blog or in real life, you know that I’m a real stickler for run times. If a movie is too short or too long, the entire experience may be ruined. In this case, the movie was far too long. There are other versions that exist that run an hour and a half or an hour and forty minutes, which is a much more acceptable run time for a movie such as Deep Red. The extra twenty minutes to a half hour that were added in for the uncut version is just a bunch of bantering between Marcus and Gianna, which is really boring considering Gianna is pretty much a useless character to begin with.
That is really the main problem that I have with this movie. Those added scenes that make the “complete” movie completely veer from what makes Deep Red fun and exciting. But that’s not the only thing that rubbed me the wrong way. At first, I thought whoever was responsible for the sound design should be executed, because it is absolutely horrendous. The cast would all of a sudden start speaking Italian and then back to English, which is weird enough, but the Italian voices didn’t match the English voices at all. It’s laughable! Turns out, the movie was originally shot in Italian with English voices dubbed over, but some of the English was lost which meant that the Italian actors spoke with their real voices in some scenes, and someone else’s voice altogether when they were speaking English. Talk about distracting.
But, let’s be real. This movie isn’t all bad. In fact, there were some scenes that literally almost made me jump up and down out of sheer excitement. These served as a reminder as to why horror buffs love Dario Argento in the first place. First of all, the death scenes in this movie are so strange that you can’t help but chuckle at the morbid silliness. Sure, they’re kind of gross at times, but there’s plenty of that trademark bright red Argento blood to fill the screen. There are also other frightening scenes that are wonderfully unique, including a hidden skeleton behind a wall and clever usage of children’s music. Also, the soundtrack by Goblin, who would also do the soundtrack to Suspiria, really drives the action onscreen.
All in all, Deep Red is a disappointing film for me. There are some really excellent scenes of horror, but above all else, this movie is a mystery film. I’d be totally fine with that if the focus was kept on the mystery and not the useless banter between the main protagonist and another character that serves next to no purpose. It’s really a shame since there are sections of this movie that are sincerely creepy, while there are more scenes that are really boring. I’d be curious to watch another version that’s shorter to see if I enjoy it more. Still, Deep Red is reserved to horror buffs only.