Retro Review – ‘Suspiria’
Often times people assume when you are making a good movie, the first thing you need is a solid and well-crafted script. But on the rarest of occasions a gifted filmmaker can take a collection of loosely connected scenes and create a masterpiece out of it. Such is the story of Dario Argento’s giallo classic, Suspiria. Often cited as the definitive film from the filmmaker dubbed the Italian Hitchcock, Suspiria is truly a triumph of style over substance. While we as the audience may not have a clue about the logic of why a particular scene is playing out, we do not care because it looks so beautiful and is set to a haunting soundtrack.
The film follows Suzy a ballet dancer from the United States who has come to Germany to study at a world-renowned ballet school. But you get the distinct feeling that something is off. We see one of the students from this school flee in terror only to be hanged by a mysterious creature with bird-like eyes. As the film unfolds the tension ramps up and violence continues to surround the school. Suzy discovers that her prestigious conservatory is actually the site of a powerful coven and she must destroy the head witch (who is presented as a fading outline of a person).
From the very beginning Dario Argento sets the tone for his horror classic he creates an atmosphere where Suzy feels like she has stepped out of the airport and into an almost fairy-tale like place. While most horror directors utilize bleak color palettes, Argento uses an entire spectrum of colors and lights to truly make every scene a visual feast. Even at the very beginning of the flick when you are hit with the jolt of seeing a woman being brutally hanged in an apartment building, you cannot help but marvel at how beautiful it all looks. The eye-popping colors combined with Argento’s brilliant camera work create something that will terrify audiences yet hold them captivated at the same time. Since every horror classic needs a memorable musical score, the rock band the Goblins were brought in to provide the music for Suspiria. Oddly enough the Italian band collaborated with the filmmaker on the project before the movie had even begun filming. The soundtrack the Goblins created is often hailed as one of the greatest examples of music being utilized in film and continues to inspire metal and punk bands to this day.
As mentioned previously the greatest weakness of Suspiria is the script Argento wrote along with Daria Nicolodi. It almost feels like the giallo master is simply using a framework of an American girl at a German ballet school simply to get to the good bits of the film. Like when we are introduced to a blind piano player who works at the school, just so we can have a scene where he is mauled to death by his Seeing Eye dog later on. That said considering that every single one of the horrific moments the movie builds to delivers, most people forgive the flaws in the story.
Suspiria is truly a must-see movie for anyone wanting to see pure mastery of the technical aspects of creating a horror film. Much like Hitchcock, Dario Argento creates a constant sense of dread by utilizing sights and sounds perfectly. Even when scenes are gruesome and blood splatters everywhere there is still a beautiful atheistic to it all.