Thursday 7 February 2013

Deep Red: Pure Italian Insanity

No other genre inspires Grandpa Simpsone-esque nostalgia like horror. It's not too hard to see why: the early master of horror couldn't fall back on tired cliches because they barely had any yet. Instead they threw out what few rules there were and wrote new ones. But while Craven, Carpenter, Hooper and even Hitchock tried to write one rulebook per film, Dario Argento insists on redefining his genre in each film. Switching between visceral violent horror, atmospheric suspense, slapstick and even screwball comedy, Argento throws everything at the wall hoping that something will stick. Featuring an   incomprehensible plot and terrible dubbing that tips you off you're watching proper Giallo, Argento crafts a demented masterpiece from shit. If you have the same DVD I have then the language track will actually switch back and forth between Italian and English* and, tellingly, this suits the films complete disregard for anything resembling... sanity.

The reason for Argento's brilliance is that he essentially has directorial ADD: if the camera isn't moving then the shots must be edited into oblivion. While horror films tends to drop their bells and whistles when the carnage stop and the exposition starts, Argento keeps his visual flare during the most prosaic scenes, which take up a large chunk of the movie. What makes Deep Red so continually fascinating and at times unsettling is the sincerity of it's lunacy. This isn't the self-conscious rule breaking of Godard and co. but the presence of a true maniac behind the camera. Yet somehow Argento is a master of composition, nothing in the mis en scene feels amateurish even while everything else in the movie does. This feels like the product of a cinema idiot savant, Argento doesn't know how to be effective he just is.

Deep Red is not as strong as it's follow up Suspiria, a truly terrifying film that features more memorable set-pieces because the camera's actions here are often more compelling than what it's capturing. However as ludicrously convoluted and poorly paced as the 'mystery' is there are moments of genuine horror and suspense. Argento's extraordinarily unhinged directing may work grandly on tightly written, well acted film but we'll never know. Instead it's best to accept that all the clunky components actually aid the creation of an amazing piece of cinematic anarchy.

*The reason for the language switch is because of the way the film was put together for it's DVD release. The film restored about 20 minutes of deleted scenes that had never been dubbed so the producers simply slapped it onto the English dub without giving any thought to the idea that perhaps the viewer may want other options. You can now find the shortened English cut and the extended Italian cut on DVD and Blu-Ray, however with foreign pulp it always feels best to be watching the version that has resulted from a series of insane production decisions.

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