50/50 Review #31: Suspiria.

Well... that was interesting. Suspiria was probably the one from this month I was most looking forward to having heard so much about it. But despite having always heard about this movie, I actually knew almost nothing about it except it was the "ballerina horror" movie (not entitled Black Swan). The story follows Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), an America ballerina who is accepted into a European dance academy. But weird things happen from the moment she arrives, like an ex-student running out into a storm and ending up dead the following day. And things just get stranger from there...

This movie is a total attack on your senses. In a way, it kind of reminded me of the first 15 minutes of Irreversible, except I didn't hate it. First and foremost, I have to talk about the score. This is equally my biggest positive and biggest negative. The score is absolutely amazing. "Goblin" made one hell of a haunting, creepy score, and I loved all of it. However, it's blasted so offensively loud at you that it makes you wonder if "subtlety" is in Dario Argento's dictionary (it isn't). Good thing it was so great, otherwise I would have hated this film just for that. (And part of my loves the fact that what sounds like a whispered "rar rar rar rar" is a part of the main theme of this horror movie. It's almost too cheesy that it's awesome.)

Next up is the color. I think that's what this movie is most famous for. The use of color in this movie is outstanding. It's mostly reds, but there are a lot of blues and even some greens throughout. It gives it this ethereal quality, which only helps some of the later scenes. In particular, there's this round office when she's following footsteps and hunting for a hidden room. The way the camera pans around the office is almost dizzyingly surreal, like the room is just changing around her, though it isn't.

Unfortunately, the rest was a little rough for me. The story was very interesting, and it was definitely a slow burn. But I felt the production values were otherwise a little on the poor side. The acting was pretty bad (though Jessica Harper was definitely the best--and the cutest... totally unrelated). And because it was a slow burn, it sometimes had trouble keeping my full attention (when the music wasn't blaring me out of my seat). I can't necessarily even say it was the direction, as Dario Argento was responsible for making it as stylishly great as it was. So I don't know.

Perhaps it was an expectations thing--due to it being Argento, I was expecting more blood and gore, and possibly a little more body horror. But the film is surprisingly lacking in blood. I mean, it's there, but not much. There were some great set pieces, like the wire room (was that supposed to be barbed wire or just regular wire?).

Anyway, the film was a bit of a contradiction for me. It's like everything I really liked about it was also everything I disliked about it. The score was great, but it was too loud. The style was fantastic, but part of it seemed off at the same time.  The acting poor, but fitting once you realize these were originally supposed to be 12-year-olds (and still made to act like children despite the older ages). The slow burn worked, but was sometimes a little wandering. I don't know... it was one strange little film, but in the end, I liked it.

I Am McLovin!


  1. A few comments:
    1) I love the soundtrack, and I don't care that it's disproportionately loud.

    2) Jessica Harper looks a lot like Karen Allen.

    3) I think it's barbed wire in the wire room.

    4) The story of this film is that Argento wanted to create a film that would be as close to a Disney horror movie as possible, which is why he went with that primary/secondary color palette. You're right about the original story being young girls, which explains a lot of the dialogue. But he wanted that sense, which is why, for instance, doorknobs are higher on doors--it makes the characters look smaller, and thus more childlike.

    5) This is the first film trailer that really scared me. I saw the trailer on TV during the film's release when I was about nine.

    6) This, along with Black Swan and The Red Shoes are the ballet movies my daughter is not allowed to watch yet.

    1. lol! I thought the SAME thing about her looking like Karen Allen.

      Yeah, I read all that stuff about the original intent being children on the imdb trivia. Pretty interesting.

  2. Yes, it certainly is a rough film at parts. I had the initial reaction of not liking how abrasive the entire film, but as the film settled into my mind, I found that was what made is so compelling. It's an all out aesthetic assault on the audience in a really ballsy way. It doesn't always work, I agree the acting is dodgy, easily the worst part of the film.

    And yes, it's not as gory as you'd expect. Argento, at his best, is much more of a mood director. I think The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is probably a better film than this, but not quite as abrasive or memorable.

    1. Yeah, the abrasiveness of it in generally really put me off at first. It took me a while to get into it, and I think it suffered for that.


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