Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!
Paul’s Choice – Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) (1975)
After a failed attempt to watch this film on my parents’ Blu-Ray player last week, I tried again last night only to encounter the same problem – the dialogue, seemingly at random, leaps between English and Italian (sometimes halfway through a sentence) with no subtitles. I thought this was a problem with their player, then I assumed it was a problem with the disc, so I hired a digital copy from Prime, only to come up against it once again!
What’s going on? Who knows. I do know that Deep Red was restored from lost footage and new audio had to be recorded for some of it. It must have been a by-product of that process, which is fine, but subtitles would have been nice! There’s a disclaimer about the restoration at the start of all versions, but nothing that prepared me for the multi-lingual nature of it! I might as Grumpy Andrew about this one as he knows much more about Argento and the history of the giallo genre than I do!
but, I digress, language problems aside, what did I think? Well – it’s definitely giallo, that’s for sure! All the hallmarks are there: a leather gloved killer whose identity remains hidden until the end, in-your-face misogyny (which is brilliantly subverted in a great scene), brutal assaults and murders (using an Agento favourite – broken glass – more than once) with buckets of extremely fake looking blood. I wasn’t surprised to find that this film was on the infamous Video Nasty list in early 80s UK.
You can see the seeds of Suspiria being sown in the story and execution of Deep Red. A British musician working in Turin witnesses a murder in an apartment and makes himself a target for the killer by persisting to investigate it. There are a few twists and turns, one of which was homaged by Wes Craven’s Scream (I won’t say which), and it works well to keep the viewer guessing who the culprit is.
As with the best of horror films, the protagonists make some very questionable choices which put them in greater danger. Argento is very good at that “He’s behind me, isn’t he?” moment and he uses it to great effect here in a tense scene involving a corridor full of creepy paintings.
Music is very much a part of the story, rather than just audio-wallpaper. There’s a creepy nursery rhyme which is central to the mystery of the killer’s identity and it set my nerves on edge by the inclusion of a single dissonant note hidden in the middle of it. Great work, as always, from Goblin on soundtrack duties.
So, to wrap up – a classic giallo with a more coherent story than Tenebre, which I watched last year. It’s just a shame that the language barrier reduced my enjoyment a little.
Aaron’s Choice – The Hitcher (1986)
The Hitcher is a film that will truly make you think twice about picking up strangers by the side of the road, as it’s dark, creepy and quite frightening.
A young man is stalked after crossing paths with a murderous hitch-hiker (played by the always great Rutger Hauer), while also trying to evade the police after he’s accused of a murder he didn’t commit.
It’s a slow burner but as soon as it gets going the story speeds along to its fantastic conclusion. The few set pieces are fantastically orchestrated and don’t feel silly or out of place while the slow character development is beautifully crafted. You never know what is around the next corner or what John Ryder (the hitcher of the title) will have up his sleeve to further torment our hero.
It really is a scary film and shows that you don’t need lots of onscreen violence or monsters to create fear and terror. In fact, most violence in the film is off screen and works far better because of it. The mind will always create more than you’ll be able to convey in film. A subtle camera pan of a family car with windows covered in blood is far more powerful than seeing a family murdered. We know what’s happened but have no justification of how or why it happened. That is what makes some of it really work as we fear what we can’t explain.
It’s a brilliant cat and mouse game where the outcome is uncertain. Rutger Hauer is amazing and seethes darkness and evil through his portrayal of John. It’s up there with his finest performances. A lot of it is subtle but it works so well. The power behind his eyes is stunning. C. Thomas Howell is equally impressive as the hero of the picture. He’s believable and relatable, which makes rooting for him easy.
It really is a hidden gem and even though it got a pretty good remake, the original remains a film you’re unlikely to see on many film lists. It’s a shame as it’s really good and although similar to a few other films, it holds its own being perfect in what it aims to do and what it achieves.
The film looks as amazing as it plays. It’s near flawless in its execution and easily one of my favourite films of all time.
Nathaniel’s Choice – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Our resident YouTuber goes back to the nineties for this really quite faithful adaptation of the literary great: