Suspiria (1977) Short Review

One of the classics of horror filmmaking, “Suspiria” is also one of the most unusual visually, having a little in common with Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque Of The Red Death. The vivid technicolor cinematography practically jumps off the screen.

Stylistically, it’s one of the most distinctive films ever made. The lighting and strangely decorated sets are part of the eerie framework. Whispers, growls, screams and even snores accent the moodiest sequences. The soundtrack by Goblin bolsters the already creepy background noise.

The characters are from some parallel universe where everyone that the protagonist meets induces xenophobia. Jessica Harper plays the American student who travels to a prestigious dance school. Of course, the school has dark secrets which are immediately evident when she arrives by taxi on a dark and stormy night.

That’s all you need to know. From there it’s a nonstop creepfest with some fairly gruesome shocks that are the staple of Argento’s films. Argento tended to stick with what ‘worked’ after Suspiria. A female lead. Unseen assailants. An unfriendly populace. Sudden, graphic deaths. Weird sexual innuendo. Women going through plate glass. Poor dubbing. Argento isn’t for everyone.

 


Harper seems to have been the inspiration for Zoe Deschanel’s persona. Harper’s eyes dart nervously. She frowns. Grimaces. She’s perfect for the tone of paranoia the film radiates throughout. The cast of the school faculty does, also. It’s like a more sinister version of the Adams Family and I’m not even including Udo Kier.

This was the first Argento film that I saw and I still consider it to be his best (by far). You can see the direct influence it had on some other great directors, most notably Sam Raimi. The still above looks like it came from the first Evil Dead film, doesn’t it?

Sure, it’s  flawed (with its poor dubbing and the typical Argento craziness), but within the horror genre it’s a very effective supernatural yarn. It’s an unusually atmospheric horror flick and a must see for true horror fans.

4.5 of 5



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