Classics Revisited: Suspiria

I had originally planned to play another game of Neflix Roulette today. However, I didn’t want to tempt fate after yesterday’s wonderful luck. Therefore, I decided to begin one of the other experiments for my blog: Classics Revisited. This experiment has less math and randomness than Netflix Routlette. In fact, it’s quite simple: I look through my (rather substantial) collection of classic horror movies, grab one that grabs my fancy, watch it, and write about it. Simple, right?…wrong. I spent nearly forty-five minutes this morning being pulled in every possible direction. “How about a Romero movie… no wait, let’s go with a modern class like Pan’s Labyrinth… you can’t go wrong with one of the original slashers … Friday the 13th, Halloween… ahhh, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”… and on, and on… and on. It got to the point where I started to randomly flip through my binder of movies (yes, I am a child of the 80s and 90s, so nearly all of my visual media comes in physical form… I can’t get behind digital (unless it’s music)… even though I ended up ripping all of my movies so I can play them on my Kindle). Eventually, I decided my first thought, mumbled mostly to myself in the car this morning (and less to my lovely girlfriend, who I fear I may be driving slightly insane with my newest obsession (don’t get me wrong, she has done nothing to indicate this… it’s just, how could it not be maddening)), was the best: “Maybe I’ll watch Suspiria again”. Granted, I saw the movie fairly recently (last summer), but I did get a nice, new blu-ray of the film a couple of months ago.

Suspiria (I ended up adding the title of the film to my dictionary in Word, since I was getting sick of all the red squiggles) is a classic horror movie by the master of the Italian film grene of Giallo horror Dario Argento . It came out late in the summer of 1977… known to most nerds (myself included) as the summer of Star Wars. Though, I’m sure there was very little overlap the audiences of these movies. (at least at the time). Briefly, the movie is about an American ballet student who movies to Germany to attend a prestigious dance academy. There are a series of murders (more on this later), weird events, and a general sense of unease that indicates that not all is as it seems in the school. I won’t go further than that… mostly because the plot gets really hard to explain… not because it’s complicated (it’s really not), it’s just so visual that words can’t do it justice. This movie is clearly a classic… I enjoy it every time I see it (today was my fourth viewing)… at the same time, though, I have to admit that my attention always tends to wander around mid-way through the movie. I think part of it is that I find the visuals (the colors in particular) almost overwhelming. It is a beautifully shot movie. You could almost say that there’s a Wes Anderson quality to Argento’s directing style (and, yes, I know that Argento came before Anderson, so I should really say there is an Argento quality to Anderson’s directing, but Argento is not a household name (unless the household is run by horror aficionados) and Anderson’s style is so masterful and unique that it transcends the linear nature of time (plus, time is a flat circle anyway… right?)). The amount of, and number of shades of the color red in the film is amazing (I am so glad I picked up an HD version of the film). By the way, if you thought M. Night Shyamalan invented the use of red to indicate that something is amiss (in his case, that there are ghosts nearby) you clearly haven’t seen Suspiria. All-in-all, Suspiria is not your typical horror movie, and definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a beautiful, almost art-film, version of the horror movie, you can’t do any better.

Random thoughts while watching the movie:

  • The lead actress (Jessica Harper) has giant eyes… like huge… like I’m-afraid-they-might-fall-out-of-the-sockets huge. Is having giant eyes the key to a great female, horror protagonist? I’m going to have to watch for this in future films.
  • The music in this film makes you feel like you’re descending to hell… in a good way.
  • The hallmark of 70s Italian horror movies: bad dubbing and good gags (check out Zombi 2 for the perfect example of this).Also, for those of you who do not know what the term “gags” mean in horror films, I’ll explain more in a later post.
  • The first killing has been aped in other films… Hannibal most notably.
  • The movie is all about atmosphere: weird interactions, strangle looking people, the color red, and ominous tonal music.
  • The second death isn’t until nearly an hour into the film (almost forty minutes after the first)… but, that’s okay. It’s all about building suspense… and the payoff of that suspense is in the last thirty minutes… wow!

Okay, that’s it for Suspiria. Have you guys seen it? What are your thoughts on the film?

See you tomorrow,

2 thoughts on “Classics Revisited: Suspiria

  1. Ok, I’ve now watched Suspiria, and it was great going back and rereading your comments on it. What stood out to me the most, besides the bizarre dubbing, was the music – it would build up at the strangest times when nothing climactic was happening and then get totally quiet when you’d think there should be creepy music playing. Very odd. I loved the laughter/talking (?) that was mixed in with the music at times – super creepy. For a while there the plot felt very Rosemary’s Baby-like, but then they didn’t take it anywhere. Definitely a fun watch – although I don’t know how you sat through it 4 times!


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