Monday, December 28, 2009

Great proto-slasher flick, despite sloppy writing

Deep Red (aka "The Deep Red Hatchet Murders" and "The Hatchet Murders")(1975)
Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, and Gabriele Lavia
Director: Dario Argento
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Pianist Marcus Daly (Hemmings) witnesses the brutal murder of a famous psychic, and then teams up with Gianna Brezzi, a feisty woman reporter (Nicolodi) to find the killer. Soon, they find themselves stalked by the deadly, seemingly omnicient murderer who is willing to end numerous lives to protect a number of dark secrets.

"Deep Red" is a detective thriller crossed with a slasher flick (and it's definately one of the precursor films to the slasher genre), with hints of a ghost movie tossed in for good measure. Although it's easy for a movie with so many different genre elements all simmering in the same pot to dissolve into a hideous, gooey mass, director and co-writer Argento manages to stir the many elements into a fabulous goulash of gore, mystery, and plot-twists that are actually suprising to the viewer.

This is far from a perfect movie. It's got some pacing problems--any viewer paying attention will know that a character who is pegged as the killer at one point in the film can't possibly be the killer, and Marcus should realize it too long before he does--and the storyline is unneccesarily muddy at a couple of points, but there are enough chills, gory kills, and well-executed twists to more than make up for these weaknesses. (The thread of Marcus trying to remember some half-seen clue at the crime scene, one that he thinks might unlock the entire mystery, is a great device that keeps the viewer engaged... and the kills scenes will sate any gore-hounds out there.)

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