Deep Red (or Profondo Rosso, to use its infinitely more ominous Italian title) is rightly regarded as one of the seminal works of Italian giallo maestro Dario Argento – still best known for Suspiria – and one of horror’s pivotal works.
Pianist Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is the unfortunate eye witness to a violent murder, and suddenly becomes the killer’s next target. Understandably hoping to avoid that fate, he partners with a local journalist (Daria Nicolodi) to unravel the murder, tracing the killer back to an urban legend from 20 years earlier: the House of the Screaming Child.
Argento’s films, and giallo in general, earned a reputation for then-shocking gore, and Deep Red doesn’t lack in that department – as you might have guessed from the name. Hatchet attacks, scaldings, and stabbings litter the film, with all due viscera. Even 40 years on, there’s a particular delight to be had in the lashings of bright red blood that made giallo famous. It’s utterly unconvincing but undeniably appealing, and the film at times revels in its own artifice.
It’s all set to a propulsive soundtrack from longtime Argento collaborators Goblin – here providing their first ever score. Both strikingly sinister and peculiarly jaunty, the music sets much of the film’s lurid tone, and you can almost sense Argento’s delight as he unveils each of the killer’s next elaborate attacks.
For such a frequently violent film, there’s a remarkable stillness to Deep Red, Argento preferring still, distant shots, with slow edits, the camera a mostly static observer. When the threat ratchets up the film rapidly shifts gears, zooming in for almost fetishistic close-ups on the killer’s accoutrements – the zip of their black leather gloves a particular favourite.
Deep Red and its ilk played a major part in shaping the later American slasher films of the ‘80s, changing the face of the genre irrevocably. Horror aficionados should be loath to miss out on an excellent restoration of one of the genre’s defining works. This is a too-rarely-seen slice of cinematic history, a filmmaker working at his peak, audio and visuals operating in perfect, grisly harmony.
This limited edition release includes brand new 4K restorations of both Argento’s director’s cut and the tauter, English-soundtracked export version of the film. Along with a wealth of extras and a few physical goodies, the most exciting inclusion for some will be the entire 28-track CD score – still one of the genre’s finest.
Words by Dominic Preston