Deep Red

Over the last couple of years, I’ve watched a lot of Italian giallo movies. Giallos tend to be quasi-thriller, semi-slasher, kinda-horror films, stylized, exploitative, and way over the top.

If nothing else, the genre offers up a wealth of fun titles: All the Colors of the Dark. Kill, Baby, Kill! Hatchet for the Honeymoon. The House With the Laughing Windows. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.  

The best-known giallo to U.S. audiences is probably Suspiria, Dario Argento’s dizzying supernatural thriller. Suspiria makes its mark with a hypnotic (or just repetitive, depending who you ask) soundtrack and a blaring oversaturated color palette. Anytime anything happens, the screen is drenched in color. Why be subtle when you can just light entire scenes bright glowing red? The genre already showcases stylized, over-the-top violence, so why not go nuts with the visuals to match? It may not be good, strictly speaking, but it’s definitely memorable.

But never mind Suspiria (and definitely don’t mind the terrible po-faced 2018 remake, unless you enjoy watching a film zoom straight up its own ass on a rocket blast of bombastic self-importance). Suspiria is usually classed as more of a horror film, for its supernatural aspects. 

But the same director also made what might be the ultimate pure giallo film, Profondo Rosso, a.k.a. Deep Red. Deep Red hits every giallo formula note perfectly, cogs clacking like a roller coaster climbing to the top. It’s also a thriller so strained and tissue-thin, it almost becomes a comment on the genre. 

I’m going to spoil almost the entire plot of Deep Red now, in the sense that I’m going to tell you what happens in most of it. But at the same time, I can’t spoil this plot for you any more than I can spoil a bowl of alphabet soup. One is about as coherent as the other.