Written by OBS Staff Member Rose
Italian-made, English-language film “Suspiria”, directed by Dario Argento, is one of those films everyone has on their top 10 horror movie list.
I am about to start a huge debate, by going out on a limb and state “I don’t see what the fuss is about.”
Maybe Suspira was a breakout art-house graphic horror film in 1977, but I do not see what most do, that places this film in the top 10 scary films of all time.
The over-used sounds of drums and instrumental music by The Goblins and the loud spirit voices yelling or whispering at any given suspenseful moment, I found to be a distraction, not atmospheric as most suggest.
Filmed for the most part, in somber tones with splashes of primary colors during important and scary suspenseful scenes gave the film a horror comic book feel. Argento focuses on certain scenes in the film for longer than necessary (IMHO), probably to evoke some feeling of terror, but it really was lost on me. It is chaotic in nature. I understand this is what I am supposed to feel, but again, it was distracting.
The headmistress (Joan Bennett) and the ballet teacher Ms. Tanner (Alida Valli) are both very well acted. In fact, they gave me the creeps, like they walked off the set of Rosemary’s Baby creepy. I thoroughly enjoyed their screen time.
However, the storyline is apparent, so there is no guesswork in the plot. Susy (played by Jessica Harper) goes to attend a famous German Ballet Academy. From the moment she steps out of the airport, Arengto goes to town, with the tumultuous rain storm and thrashing sounds. Susy first encounter upon arriving at the school is seeing a student running through the woods seemingly aimless. At the school, more chaos is to be had when she sees a student exiting the building, who seems quite insane, and is saying things that make no sense (at the moment). This school actually houses a coven of witches. Murders start right off the bat and no one seems to understand why or want to divulge what is going on at the school. The deaths and larvae bugs and the wild dog that eats a poor chap are the witches doing of course. Fine and dandy. But was I scared? No. Was it gory? Yes.
Were there certain scenes that were very well done? Yes, of course. For example…a student at the school is killed and falls through a stained glass ceiling and ultimately is hung. The shards practically cut a girl’s face in two who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pretty graphic and ominous. Or the chick that falls into an entire unraveled roll of barbwire was pretty gruesome.
There is even a scene that is remisnicent of The Exorcist, where someone was laying on a bed behind a sheet, making loud suffering breathing noises that I found to be well done until it quickly turned comical when the someone opened their mouth to speak to ask “Who is there” in the most forced gruffy tone, I actually laughed out loud. It was quite over dramatic.
Not to say all this makes the film a bad one by any means. It’s just so over the top of a visual rollercoaster, it’s hard to take the film seriously sometimes. I can’t imagine the kind of mind Argento had to create such crazy images, but to deny his creativity I will not do.
The ending was quick, hot on the heels of utter madness Susy is trying to escape from at the school. The End. Don’t worry I didn’t really ruin it, for I believe the ending wasn’t important. It was the journey through all the sights and sounds of the hellish nightmare itself that Argento wanted the audience to feel and appreciate.
When pondering other Italian horror films to compare this to, I thought of The Last House in the Woods, directed by Gabriele Albanesi, which actually reflects Agrento’s tone in Suspira, with chaotic sounds, scenes and an outlandish plot. Albanesi actually paid homage to his favorite horror films, Suspiria included. Where The Last House failed, it seems Suspiria rose above and I can see why Suspiria is a cult-classic now, but…as far as numero uno on any list of mine, I would have to decline the entry.
I do recommend seeing the film, for you cannot be a horror film buff and say you have never seen Suspiria.
Running time: 104 minutes