Profondo Rosso (1975)

“I can feel death in this room! I feel a presence, a twisted mind sending me thoughts! Perverted, murderous thoughts… Go away! You have killed! And you will kill again!”

‘Profondo Rosso’, directed by Dario Argento in 1975, is an Italian serial killer thriller, part of the giallo genre, with inventive shocks, a surprisingly tight script and one notoriously uncanny scene. Marcus Daly, played by British actor David Hemmings, investigates a series of hatchet murders linked to a folktale and a haunted house and are all accompanied by the sound of childish music. Compared with Argento’s later movie ‘Suspiria’, ‘Profondo Rosso’ is relatively subdued: the shocks are present, as is the gore, but the story and themes hang together and Argento consistently and systematically develops his mystery. The performances are also great, Hemmings in particular transforms a limited character into a stylish and witty one. The humour and chemistry between his character and his love interest Gianna is a welcome distraction from the unrelenting suspense. The highlight of the film is the scene in which a character is menaced by an eerie clockwork mannequin and then has his teeth bashed in. Like Bergman before him, and Lynch after him, Argento knows exactly how to tap into and depict dream imagery to a frightening effect. The double whammy of the doll and the details of the murder access two distinct and common recurring themes but together they move the film almost but not quite into supernatural territory. Unlike ‘Suspiria’ which was an out-and-out horror, this film exists in that liminal zone between heightened realism and outright paranormal. Argento’s skill is to tread this line and use the liminality to unsettle the viewer. In this respect, and in some of the imagery Argento uses, this film reminded me of a more extreme and less subtle version of Nic Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’. It’s a mysterious, ungraspable film that offers the viewer thrills and visceral chills, but doesn’t pander to generic convnetions.

Would I recommend it? Yes – watch this before ‘Suspiria’, maybe in a double-bill with ‘Don’t Look Now’.

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