My Deep Love of Deep Red

Silly me. With all the hubbub of 2010 marking the 35th anniversary of Jaws and the 30th anniversary of Empire Strikes Back, I almost forgot that this year also marks the 35th anniversary of Deep Red (a.k.a. Profondo Rosso), Dario Argento's giallo masterpiece. I first saw Deep Red while I was in college and while I have seen many giallo flicks since then, none of them have been quite as memorable as this one.

For those of you who are new to this, giallo movies are basically Italian slasher films with a greater emphasis on mystery than their American counterparts. What makes Deep Red such a great film is that it does best what giallo movies are known for: mysteries that are solved not through physical evidence, but instead through deeply symbolic explorations of the killer's fragmented, deranged mind. (In some ways, giallo films have more in common with the silent German expressionist horror classics such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari than they do with standard murder mystery narratives.) As the story unfolds, Argento fills Deep Red with suggestive, distinct images and sounds (a single eye suddenly opening in the darkness, a children's lullaby, a maniacally laughing mechanical doll, a painting that holds the secret to the killer's identity, etc.) that stick with you long after it's over. It also has one of the creepiest introductions of a killer that I've ever seen in a movie--it's not done through an elaborate opening murder scene, but in an auditorium where a psychic goes into hysterics when she senses the killer's sinister presence among the audience. That scene and the involvement of a legendary haunted house as a clue add an extra aura of supernatural dread to this classic thriller.

Happy 35th anniversary, Deep Red! I'm sure you'll keep knocking 'em dead for 35 years to come.


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