Review: Suspiria

Posted by Peter Hall - April 14th 2006 @ 12:01 am

Directed by Dario Argento, 1977

Dario Argento is a mad man with a camera. I’m no psychologist, or psychiatrist, or scientist, or any kind of -ist for that matter, but I’m pretty sure that if you could record the world through the eyes of a crazy person it would look exactly like Suspiria.

If you do happen to read horror buzz outside of what this blog deems important (and I’m pretty sure I’m always right, so no need to go anywhere else), you may have read that a recent attempt at remaking Suspiria has floundered simply because studio execs can’t get their head around the movie enough to contract any kind of coherent script. It isn’t that Suspiria makes no sense – it actually makes perfect sense – it’s just too surreal for any kind of a modern, mainstream studio to try and reproduce.

Imagine if some crackhead painted a giant mural of a horrorific, yet beautiful, dream he had in which a Godzilla-sized crackrock ran around devouring children. Now imagine asking Bob Ross to paint that crackhead’s dream. That’s why Suspiria can never and will never be remade.

The story, superficially, is of an American gal who goes abroad to study at a prestigeous dance academy, only said dance academy is currently being plagued by horrible deaths and general weirdness. That’s it. That’s all there is to the story. Girls dance through the day, weird stuff happens at night. Oh, and the last 15 minutes could never be guessed from the first 15. Now you can see why studios couldn’t extract a plot for them to remake out of what is considered Argento’s most acclaimed film.

Shot with some of the most engrossing cinematography the genre has ever seen, Suspiria is chock full of all kinds of haunting imagery. The opening alone is considered one of the greatest of the genre, and while I personally wouldn’t consider it the best, it is one helluva an opening packed with all kinds of creepy nuance. The rest of the 97 minutes aren’t too shabby either and are consistently interesting despite the fact there really isn’t much plot or character development.

The entire film consists of us watching these poor girls running around a fantasy mansion being terrorized by a creepy pair of yellow eyes – could be man, could be ghost, who knows!? – for no discernable reason, but it all works and is in no way limited by its simplicity. And when I say terrorized, I mean psychological, as well as physical, torture that is done with such ’70s imagination and intensity that this new wave of Saw-inspired horror just can’t match. I’ll take Suspiria‘s fall into a room full of coils of razor sharp wire over a fall into a pit of needles any day.

What does make the movie such an experience to watch is not only the aforementioned cinematography, but the score. First off, the music credit goes to “The Goblins”. With a name like The Goblins you know you’re in for something good, and their work on Suspiria does not dissapoint. It is one of the most unique scores ever composed, horror or not, and the movie is worth watching for the music alone.

Though his last few movies haven’t garnered much praise (despite his contribution to Masters of Horror, which was one of the series’ best), Argento is still one of the most unique directors to the genre. The look of an Argento flick is unmistakable. Watching his work is like watching a playback of someone else’s uninteruptable nightmare. Modern audiences may not appreciate how effortlessly Argento makes the surreal feel so natural, but his films are something you have to experience to understand and Suspiria is the perfect launching point.

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  1. April 14th, 2006 | 3:45 pm | #1

    I’m really glad you liked that movie, mostly because I hated it.

    Actually, I couldn’t stand more than the first 30 minutes, so no one knows how I really feel about the movie as a whole. Yet, it gains a little credit in the fact that you like it, if that makes any sense. (Nope.)

  2. April 14th, 2006 | 5:24 pm | #2

    I’d say I liked it mainly because I appreciate it on a technical level rather than the overall merit of it as a complete film.

    To put it a better way, if I were asked to make a list of classic/must see genre films, I wouldn’t include Suspiria. But if I were to make a list of horror flicks that are worth watching just to see how different they are, Suspiria would certainly make an appearance.

  3. April 15th, 2006 | 2:50 pm | #3

    Yeah, I get what you’re saying.

    The style is a big change, and I think that any time I’ve tried to watch Argento, I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. Have you seen many of his other films?

  4. April 15th, 2006 | 3:40 pm | #4

    I haven’t seen a whole lot of his films whole, but I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there. His early stuff seems follows the vein of Suspiria, while his later movies come off a lot more Western. I haven’t seen anything he has done over the last decade and a half, save for Jenifer, his Masters episode.

  5. April 17th, 2006 | 7:53 am | #5

    Then the two of you should really check out “Profondo Rosso”/”Deep Red”. My favourite Argento flick.

  6. April 17th, 2006 | 8:05 am | #6

    Cool, thanks for the recommendation Emiel.

  7. james
    July 2nd, 2010 | 12:53 pm | #7

    Deep Red is definitely his best movie, but Susperia is his most technically stunning. The last portion of Susperia is worth the wait through the long parts.

  8. Charley
    February 16th, 2011 | 11:34 pm | #8

    I have to watch this movie again to admire
    it’s flavor, I guess.

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