Starring Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bose and Alinda Valli
Young American dance student Suzy has arrived in Germany to attend an exclusive ballet school. However, Suzy and some of her fellow students soon begin to notice the slightly strange goings on in the school, with some students disappearing and turning up dead. Eventually, Suzy comes to realise that the school is, in fact, the hiding place for a coven of evil witches intent on making her their latest sacrifice.
Italian filmmaker Dario Argento is often viewed as one of the most stylish directors in horror cinema. While it is true that his career has taken a bit of dive in terms of quality in recent years, one cannot deny the brilliance of his earlier work that cemented his place in horror history. The subject of today’s review is one such film, his 1977 masterpiece Suspiria.
The film is drenched with an overpowering visual style with a heavy and stylistic use of colour, red in particular, with the colour dominating nearly every frame of the film, sometimes to the point where the entire screen is blood red. Although a humorous side effect of this red heavy visual style is making it seem like the ballet school is on the surface of bloody Mars, with a constant stream red light shining in the bedroom window of our heroine and throughout the halls.
It’s not just the visual style that overpowers you when you watch Suspiria, the music does its best to batter you into submission.
Performed by the Italian rock group Goblin (credited as The Goblins), the score sounds like a prog-rock concert from hell. Filled with eerie vocals, nightmarish guitars and thunderous drums, the music truly adds a captivating sense of terror and dread to proceedings.
The score does sort of come and go when it pleases at times, smacking you in the face with a blistering crescendo when the camera glides through the halls looking to spy on our heroine and then it just stops, only to come thundering back again seconds later.
Being that this is an Italian film, all the voices are all dubbed. However, in a welcome change from when this normally happens, the dubbing is well done for the most part, with the voices all sounding well suited to their respective characters. It also helps that lead actress Jessica Harper as Suzy is dubbing her own voice, avoiding any unintentional hilarious mismatched voices, and ensuring that we can enjoy her performance unencumbered.
Is the film scary? Depends on how you view the film I suppose. The colourful fever dream presentation of the film did not necessarily frighten me and it might not necessarily frighten others. Although I will admit one scene featuring a cackling glass eyed knife wielding zombie did make it difficult for me to sleep the night I watched this.
The film is perhaps a bit too weird in my view to be truly terrifying – quite often I found myself laughing at the sheer absurdity of events, although this is not to demean Suspiria, as, it truly is brilliant and it certainly left me very entertained. With a distinctive visual flair and a terrifyingly awesome soundtrack, the film just grabs a hold of the viewer’s senses and doesn’t let go till the credits roll.
Yes, the plot is a bit weird; the acting is a bit over the top at times and the ending is a bit abrupt, but really who cares about all that when you have a film this fucking cool. Suspiria is a masterpiece from one of the greats of European horror, let’s just hope he can get himself sorted out and make films like this once more.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★