Starring Jessica Harper, Udo Kier, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli, Stefania Casini, Miguel Bosé, Flavio Bucci, Barbara Magnolfi
Directed by Dario Argento
Expectations: High. It’s Suspiria, even normal people have heard of it, so I’m assuming it’s good.
Well I guess there’s a reason why this is so popular! Suspiria is the Italian horror film to see if you don’t care for Italian horror films, as it has enough creepiness, fear and mystery to make it one hell of an interesting movie. Argento’s previous films tend to need a bit of coaxing and mental adjusting to experience properly. I don’t mean this necessarily in a bad way, it is a natural process I go through when I venture down a new path of foreign films. I find that I need to see a few before I can understand the rhythms and the flow they move at. I don’t watch foreign movies for more of the same, and in order to properly absorb them, some leeway must be given to allow for them to grow on me. If nothing takes root after a few films, then I leave that path behind and try something new. Coming into Suspiria I was a bit unsure if I’d continue down the Giallo path, but I find myself constantly thinking back to the Argento films I’ve watched over this past month and while I might have been less than completely impressed initially, I am haunted by the inventive shots and horrific scenes contained within them. Suspiria solidifies my interest in the Italian horror genre and is probably the most immediately likable of the Argento films I have seen so far.
This opening is the closest to a straight-up giallo murder scene in the entire film and as it comes within the first few minutes it can be seen as Argento’s nod to his previous films and their structure, before venturing off into the ether and Suspiria‘s world of the supernatural. This isn’t to say that Argento gets all new filmmaking techniques along with the shift though. The lead character is still struggling to remember something that happened in the opening of the film and there are moments of first-person camerawork. Overall though, Suspiria channels the previous Argento movies in much more subtle ways and is a much better film for it.
These visual tactics are all great, but the greatest element of creep in the film comes from the masterful Goblin score. They wisely keep the prog-rock drums off the actual score and just focus on repetitive, creepy tracks that slither their way into your psyche and whisper dark thoughts into your ears. Like the Morricone scores for Leone’s westerns, the Goblin score was composed before any filming had begun. This allowed for Argento to compose a movie around and representative of the music and he pulled it off masterfully. Suspiria will forever populate lists of the greatest film scores specifically for this reason, as the filmed images are impossible to separate from the music. I read a story that Argento played the music at full blast while filming to throw the actors off-balance and creep them out to create better, fearful performances. I’d say he succeeded.
Suspiria is one hell of a movie that will get under your skin and stay a while. Highly recommended to all horror fans. If you’re an Argento fan and you haven’t seen this, what’s yer problem? Get to it. It should also be noted that the Netflix Instant version has about five minutes cut out, including most of the gore, so consider yourself warned and hunt down one of the quality DVD releases. Ninety-eight minutes is what you’re looking for.
Come back tomorrow as Uncle Jasper closes out his Lucha Libre horror series with the recent American-produced film, Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy! Wait…American? This should be interesting!