My introduction to famed Italian horror master Dario Argento has been a long time coming. I’m not sure why I never watched any of his films before now, but I am happy I spent four years in college as a film major appreciating the true art of cinema before I did. Suspiria, released in 1977, is arguably Argento’s most famous work. It follows Suzy, an American who travels to Germany to attend a ballet academy. After a few murders occur, Suzy discovers something supernatural is afoot and starts to investigate. This film is not for the 2014 horror fan who loves a stupid plot, fun kill scenes and a lot of nudity. This isn’t campy horror or torture horror. Suspiria is a horror relic - it is proof that once upon a time, truly artistic, visually stunning horror did indeed exist. Artistic horror? Really? Who knew such a thing was out there?
When you hear people talk about Suspiria, you’ll probably hear all the same things. Amazing visuals. Mind-boggling style. Bright colors. Outrageous soundtrack. And gore. You’ll hear about the gore. Everything you’ve heard about Argento and Suspiria is true. The plot may be a bit convoluted and sometimes confusing, but damn the colors and visuals are amazing. Argento’s visual style is truly beautiful and thoroughly captivating. Any lapses in plot go unnoticed because the visuals are so strong. There were many points during this film when I didn’t know what the hell was happening, but everything on screen looked so amazing it didn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong - the story is interesting enough, but it takes some twists and turns without great (if any) transitions and leave things a little cloudy. The soundtrack will forever stick with me. Put simply, it was the strangest, most unique set of music I’d ever heard and it worked so well with the film. And then there’s the gore. To be honest, it’s 2014, I’ve seen a lot of horror films and I survived the original The Evil Dead. That being said, while this film doesn’t pack the gory punch you see on theaters today, it was purposefully disgusting. No excessive gory scenes or random shots of blood were used in this film. Every single instance of gore was specifically chosen and used well. While Suspiria doesn’t boast a body count of 24, each death that does occur is pretty gruesome.
Suspiria is an artistic film and you have to appreciate it for that. The sound editing and poor film quality hold it back a bit, but you get through it. The main thing for me was it isn’t very scary. The film has an amazing style, kickass music and a truly creepy vibe, but nothing is ever scary. There’s a nice, creepy scene with maggots that I enjoyed, but I spent most of the film engrossed in the visuals instead of cowering in fear.
Lucky for Suspiria, an artistic, creepy horror is far, far better than a terribly written,excessively gory/stupid, really scary horror. I loved watching this film and it was refreshing to be reminded what great, artistic cinema looks like. You just don’t see that in horror anymore, which is a shame. The supernatural beings in Suspiria may not be terrifying to the other creatures on the island, but they look and sound damn good.
If you liked Suspiria, you might also like The Beyond and Phantasm.