Deep Red aka The Hatchet Murders (Profundo Russo, 1975) opens with one of Dario Argento's signature stabbings to the sound of a children's tune. The choice of a children's tune makes the scene effective, but most of the time the film is saddled with the dated noise of Argento's own synthesizer band, Goblin.
Next we follow the adventures of a woman psychic who seems likely to be the protagonist & it may seem promising if Argento is really going to have a supernatural element rather than just gore. But she gets hacked up twelve minutes into the film, so the whole show has to start over from scratch with new characters.
Three things are effective in this film: the children's tune which we'll hear again at the end; the creepy robotic doll that we see for all of ten seconds; & the horrible (& horribly amusing) dragging-death of the primary suspect. All added together that's probably about four cool minutes max.
Beyond that, there are the graphic slashings which are few & far between. Most of the time it is just a jabbery script. Our stalwart musician & wannabe detective (David Hemmings) will eventually figure out who the psychopath actually is, but so what.
Due to some underplayed humor, it's not an unintelligent film, but for me it's not much of a film even so. It seemed more extreme in its day & the fact that it had any plot at all was once regarded as revolutionary for an Italian giallo, which were usually even worse than this one. Within the limited context of giallo, Argento with little touches like that children's rhyme does create much more striking moods & dissonances than other giallo directors.
Many of Argento's more rabid fans still regard Deep Red as an important film for him & some will even swear it is better than Suspiria, his most famous film. If that hideous doll had played a bigger role I might've agreed, but I just don't find films that can mostly boast only about their good meat-cleaver scenes to be at all consequential.
For most viewers Deep Red will come off as a poor story & even slim on exploitation value on its way to a hackneyed "reveal" of the true villain.
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