Published on May 3rd, 2016 | by Brando Quiring0
Brando’s a horror fan, yet he hadn’t seen Dario Argento’s classic film, Suspiria. He gives it a go to see if it deserves the hype.
I was reading an article about cult horror movies I “have to see before I die,” nine of the top ten living happily in my movie collection. The tenth was a cult favourite I have heard mention of for a quite a while but never got around to actually watching it: Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
Suspiria is the chilling tale of a New York girl who wants to go the ballet school in Germany, and ends up in a fight for her life against a bunch of random horror icons, cheesy 70s gore, and the best horror soundtrack this side of Silent Hill 3. While the story itself wasn’t flush with clarity, Suspiria was still a great watch.
In fact, the story is a mess, awash in zombies, ghosts, witches, killer dogs and renegade students that get stabbed in their still beating hearts. With all those elements it was a little difficult to have an extra cohesive plot flow through the whole runtime and yet I found myself being totally enthralled in the sheer beauty of the movie. The first kill sucked me in with the interesting lighting and the unbelievable soundtrack, and while I had no idea why a girl had her chest pulled open and a knife jammed through her still-beating heart, I just didn’t care. Once her dead body crashed through a great stained glass window and landed on some killer tile work, her face loaded up with busted glass, covered in exquisite too-red blood, I was willing to buy anything Suspiria wanted to sell me.
What was it selling?
Honestly, I don’t know. There was something about dancing and missing people and rotten meat, but Suspira is all about the presentation. And what it presents, it presents beautifully. The lighting is unique, using blues and softer shades to light our heroine (Suzy) and a heavy red to show where danger may or may not appear. While it is rare that we actually get to clearly see what is causing the fear, it doesn’t really matter — it’s just so damn pretty!
There is a scene where I swear the soundtrack was so haunting and badass it hypnotised a blind dude’s guide dog into killing and eating him. Seriously, I think that is a better explanation than the movie offers.
Suspiria is less about cohesion and more about presenting kick ass set pieces. There is a scene where a faceless something chases a girl through the madhouse/school dorm until she plummets in to a wacky pit of razor wire, where she crawls and squirms until…well, you can guess where that goes.
In another set up, the dorm is flooded with maggots and the ladies are forced to spend the night in the gym, Revenge of the Nerds 2-style, complete with backlit curtains and the shadowy silhouette of a heavily breathing ballet school headmistress scaring the lady-balls out of the student body. They do it with some scary sound effects and red lights. No jump scares, no over-breasted ladies getting sawed to bits in the shower. Suspiria does what every modern horror picture tries to do, but it does it with a type of creativity that doesn’t often happen.
That creativity comes at a price. That price is clear during the final act, when Suzy discovers that the ballet school is actually run by witches who are, well, up to no good…I guess. Suzy finds herself in a immaculately lit, perfectly shot, hidden area of the school where she catches the faculty mid-chant, gets chased by both a Lurch proxy and the reanimated remains of the girl who took a swim in the razor wire. A chase that takes her into the chambers of the mysterious and fiendish headmistress of the school!
Who is a ghost.
An invisible ghost.
In such a heavily visual movie it is too bad that the “final boss” is just a blurry outline and a disembodied voice. Also, when was the last time you could stop a ghost by stabbing it in the neck with a knitting needle?
The film ends with Suzy running out of the crumbling building, into the rain and then the credits helpfully inform you that you have been watching Suspiria and that is all.
Suspiria is a great example of what a movie should be, in that it takes every opportunity to show you something cool. Every shot has something super neat to look at, even at the expense of easy-to-follow storytelling. Suspiria seems to rely heavily on visual symbolism and that pure “this is awesome to look at” mentality to carry it through and, in all honesty, it totally works. Even writing this, I can only really remember how cool the movie was to watch and to hell with the fact that the story is wonky at best. This is the real definition of a ‘horror noir’ film, and it really does deserve all of the praise it gets. The music alone is worth the time you spend with it and I really do think that this is one of those films that will get better on the third and fourth viewings.
The Internet challenge my horror watching cred and I accepted. I am glad I did, and I think you should take the plunge too, you will not be disappointed.