From November 2014

Dario Argento’s Deep Red: Vibrant Blood & Mystery

Profondo Rosso/Deep Red.  1975.  Dir. Dario Argento.  Starring David Hemmings, Macha Meril, Dario Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Giuliana Calandra, Glauco Mauri, Clara Calamai, and Piero Mazzinghi.  Rizzoli Film.  18+.  126 minutes.

★★★★★ (Film)
★★★★★ (Blue Underground Blu ray release)

Not having seen every single one of Dario Argento’s films, but many, I can’t necessarily compare Profondo Rosso (English title: Deep Red) to everything else he has done. However, so far among the films of his I have seen, this has to be my favourite.
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Profondo Rosso follows Marcus Daly (Hemmings) after he witnesses the bloody murder of a psychic (Meril) from the street. I hesitate to say too much else for fear of ruining things. It’s a great, twisted story. The creepy child’s song which becomes the killer’s cue will stick with you long after the credits roll. The story is great. There a plenty of red herrings along the way, plenty of dark alleys with which to trouble yourself. There are a lot of giallo films out there which meander too much. Argento himself is guilty of this from time to time with certain films of his. However, in Profondo Rosso I find the story is really tight, and Argento successfully weaves a creepy tale.

The look of the film is great, as are most Argento pieces. In particular, a typical ‘eyes in the dark’ scene becomes even creepier, and very different here with much attention to the colours. Argento seems to deal over and over with amazing colour schemes. Here, there is a lot of red and black.
Deep Red 1The death scenes are genius. On the Blue Underground Blu ray release, Bernardino Zapponi relates how he and Argento would come up with relatable ways for people to die. For instance, Zapponi comments on how most people do not & never will know how it feels to be shot by a gun, but everyone has at one time burned themselves with hot water, and this is how we get one of the deaths in Profondo Rosso. Similar is the idea of everyone having banged themselves off the corner of a piece of furniture roughly at one time or another forming yet another death in the film.
Deep Red - Marc & HelgaThe exchanges between David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi are classic. The script Zapponi and Argento wrote is superb, and definitely one of the better written giallos I’ve seen.
The acting itself is marvelous. Hemmings was a talented actor.  Currently I’m about to watch him in Blow-Up, as well (for the first time). Daria Nicolodi fits right in with an Argento film, which is why she turns up in many of his later works like the spectacularly weird Phenomena, as well as Tenebre, Opera, and others. She also appears in the underrated Shock, directed by master of all that is horror – the legendary Mario Bava.

It helps a horror-thriller when the actors can be spot on, so as to give it a legitimacy many horror genre films seriously lack. Especially nowadays, as remakes are more common (some are okay while most are generally, though I do hate to generalize in most cases, uninspired), and the teen-slasher genre has ran amok.
deepred4All in all a 5 out of 5 – both for the movie itself, as well as this particular Blu ray release.
In terms of the film on its own, I wish the individual who played the murderer had been someone different. I would say more, but risk spoiling too much. In any case, it certainly doesn’t ruin the film at all.  Just nitpicking, which I try to stay away from usually.
Highly recommended film. Especially for those just beginning an interest in giallo films, or Dario Argento himself. It’s a strange film, yet still one of the few least strange of Argento’s films, in my opinion. It is a little more accessible than some others if only because of the plot. Not to say this is simple. I just think it’s a good starting point for those wanting to explore his work. Regardless of how you come to watch it, there is lots to love. You not only get a beautifully disturbing film, it has an amazing soundtrack. Courtesy of Goblin. Argento and Goblin together are like gravy with turkey and potatoes – it just works, all the time.
Watch this as soon as you get the chance. You will not regret it.

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The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is Celluloid Terror

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  1974.  Dir.  Tobe Hooper.  Starring Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, Wiliam Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, and Gunnar Hansen.  Vortex.  18+.  83 minutes.

★★★★★

Between a mix of Tobe Hooper’s raw filmmaking style, and my ability to empathize fairly well, I was absolutely shaken when I first saw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It’s the reason why horror filmmakers are perpetually fascinated by that same recurring plot of “murderous cannibal family lives in the woods and kills people off who wander into their home”. It’s one of the reasons I love horror films in general.  It influenced, and continues to influence, a number of generations of horror fans and filmmakers alike.texas1z.png I remember my mother, who isn’t a stranger to horror (she read most of Stephen King’s work when I was growing up and passed all the books of his she owned onto me), telling me about the first time she watched The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and said it’d terrified her; quote unquote, the scariest thing ever. Of course, being a young male and thinking my mom couldn’t possibly offer me any insight on the horror genre, I went ahead and watched it anyways.
Needless to say, my mom has a fairly accurate opinion about what a scary film is. The first time I saw the movie is forever imprinted in my brain.

There’s something never right even from the very start of TCM, as we get the cringe-worthy sound accompanying the camera flashes while viewing macabre images. Then of course it kicks up a notch after the gang we’re going on a trip with along the Texas highway picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be far beyond stable. Hooper works in a lot of suspense, and an absolutely unparalleled air of dread before finally letting Leatherface loose for the first time. I remember first watching this when I was 12 years old (I was only born in 1985, so it would have been around ’97 somewhere), surely not supposed to be according to my parents. When Leatherface first blows through that door with that shriek of his, attacking the unsuspecting victim, I was absolutely terrified.
The-Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre-75Even 20 years or so after first scaring audiences in the mid-seventies, it was still working its magical horror on people on my sorry ass. Today, I can still throw it on and be shocked when first meeting Grandpa; the scene where they try to get him to take some of her blood is at once horrifying, and also darkly comic. After all the years of desensitizing myself with horror of all kinds, I can still find a creepy thrill from TCM.
I put myself in the shoes of these people- imagine encountering something like Leatherface. You’d be petrified. The whole family are disturbing characters in their own right, and they bring some black comedy to such a wild horror film. Hooper’s raw way of filming TCM brought a whole new element to the idea of horror, and people for years to come (and still continuing on into the foreseeable future) would try emulating its feel, but nothing can ever top it for the gritty terror it induces.
You can pretend all you want, but if Leatherface burst out from some shut-up door in an old house where you were looking around, you’d not only be terrified, you would most likely die. Along with letting loose most bodily functions. Isn’t that terrifying enough? Hooper didn’t have to add much to make this terrifying for me except the script itself, and the performances that came out of it. I feel a lot of it, if not all, was very natural, and very much how I would imagine people might really react.
THE-TEXAS-CHAIN-SAW-MASSACRE-1974-450x252All in all, this movie gets a full 5-star rating. Hands down. One of the best, and continually most frightening horror films I have yet to see. It always makes me wonder when I am deep in the woods camping somewhere, or hiking, if there really may be people out there living in a big creepy house, killing whoever they can manage to get through their doors. Any film that lingers in your mind, making you wonder the impossible is a solid film to me.
I also love how Hooper was partly inspired by the tales he heard of the infamous Ed Gein, whom always played Muse to some of other very famous horror icons including Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, as well as the iconic mommy’s boy Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho; Gein used to make things out of skin, including a ‘woman suit’ he apparently used to put on and howl at the moon. You can clearly see where the inspiration for dear ole Leatherface came from while peering into the dark world of Gein. Not that he was like Leatherface much more than at face value (get it – face?), or any of the other characters, but there are bits and pieces of Gein littered throughout them. The most outrageous, of course, are here in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and I love every last second of it.

The Devil’s Rejects: Old School Horror a la Manson

The Devil’s Rejects.  2005.  Dir.  Rob Zombie.  Starring Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Ken Foree, Matthew McGrory, Leslie Easterbrook, Geoffrey Lewis, and Priscilla Barnes.  Rated R.  Maple Pictures.  107 mins.

★★★★ (Film)
★★★1/2 (Blu ray release)

I’ll start off by saying I really love this movie. Not only that, I think Rob Zombie is an excellent horror director. He has a whole style of his own, as if the 60s & 70s came back to life with more grit n’ grime than you could ever have imagined. Personally, I also think he gets better.

devils_rejects_ver2I love the film. It’s quirky and funny at times. Others it is terrifying. Naturally, Zombie throws in a few good measures of nostalgia such as references to Elvis, the Marx Brothers and specifically Groucho, Johnny Cash, and a few other bits here or there. The Devil’s Rejects picks up just after the events of Zombie’s first feature film House of 1,000 Corpses: we watch as the Firefly family is laid siege upon by Texas Sherriff John Wydell (whose brother met an untimely end along with Walton Goggins in the first film) and his State Troopers. However, Baby and Otis manage to slip out through the horrific Firefly house, and get themselves onto the road where they escape into thin air. Certainly, Captain Spaulding pops up quickly, and we find out that he is in fact the father of Baby, who is also the brother of Otis- a very interesting and terrible family connection. From there we basically get a slasher road movie with that 60s/70s sensibility. Add in a bit of Ken Foree and Michael Berryman, a climax involving guns and a convertible and Lynyrd Skynyrd, some intense violence, and you’ve got quite the intense experience all around.
04_devils_rejects_blu-rayI really love this sequel because it takes a more campy horror, House of 1,000 Corpses, and extends the characters into something much more serious, sinister, and creepy. One scene specifically, in the motel, really gets to me. Bill Moseley said it was a very awful experience for him. Zombie makes a few comments on the Blu-ray about how it was very hard to wash those days of filming off afterwards. Tough to stop filming and all of a sudden go back into a light mood. No doubt. But it goes to show how powerful film can be. This isn’t just a raw movie full of violence, it really examines some dark subject matter. I think Zombie did an excellent job taking his weird characters from the first film and transplanting them into something similar yet vastly different. Good job by a solid filmmaker who knows horror well.
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That being said I’m not really impressed with this Blu-ray release. I’ve also got The Devil’s Rejects on DVD; it came with a two-disc set, one disc containing a documentary on the making of the film called 30 Days In Hell, which I really enjoyed. It had a lot of great stuff on there. Of course there were also other little bits and pieces. This Blu-ray has none of that. It contains the audio commentary, thank the movie gods, and some deleted scenes. If it weren’t for Rob Zombie’s commentary in particular this release would get a lower score. Not because of the film itself, just because of the features. This is a big disappointment. Zombie’s commentary, of course, is gold. He always has some great stuff to say about the filming process. I really like his perspective on budgets; on the DVD set I have there is an interview with him where he talks about how there’s no sense in throwing more money at something when he could just do it practically and in a more interesting way. About 98% of the effects here are practical. One notable exception is the knife Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) throws at one of her hostages, catching the woman in the chest; this is done digitally. Still, even that looks nice. It’s cool to hear Zombie talk a bit about these things. Only part saving this pitiful Blu-ray.
08_devils_rejects_blu-rayAs for the film, it looks spectacular. Zombie found the perfect look for The Devil’s Rejects. As I said before, it’s straight out of the 60s/70s here. A lot of classic looking shots here that remind me of road movies from that period. I had to give this release a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I wish I could give it more. Based solely on the film, I give it a HUGE rating. However, this is a review of the Blu-ray itself, including its “special features”. I put quotations around those words because there’s nothing much special here. If it wasn’t for the quality, I’d probably just opt to throw in my DVD set instead, and get more bang for my buck. Although I only paid $8 for this Blu-ray at HMV, I still think they could have done better. The movie is great, while the extras here do not justify the entire release. I wish they could have included the extras I have on the 2-disc DVD set. Then this would be a full 5-star review. Shame.