Suspiria (Argento, 1977): Italy

Reviewed by Matheus Clorado. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Riviera Theatre.

Dario Argento’s eery classic preys on the primal human fear of the unknown. Released in 1977, Suspiria is an obligatory stop for any horror fanatico. It is visually stunning, captivating, and ultimately a complete sensorial experience.

More than 40 years after its debut, the Italian film holds its spot in film history and its status as high-art horror.

The plot is quite simple: young and innocent ballet dancer Suzy moves from the U.S. to Germany to join an esteemed ballet school. Needless to say that her plans do not go her way as the story unfolds. Mysterious disappearances, weird noises, and suspicious supervisors make up the cinematic picture of Dario Argento’s masterpiece.

Aided by a soundtrack album that’s just as important as the movie itself, the viewers’ attention is kidnapped right from the early scenes. And there is no doubt that sound and color will continue to enhance the terrifying occurrences witnessed by newcomer Suzy.

Inspired by Cat People, German Expressionism, and even Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dario Argento had a vision for this project that required a lot of filmmaking skills lacking in many of today’s horror releases. The soundtrack partnership with Goblin is a stand-alone scary album to a stand-alone scary picture, and added the way they were, Suspiria became truly an experience whose force lingers on to this time.

Suspiria will continue to inspire many artists and scare many people as it gets older. An Amazon remake is now two years old, but it is nothing more than a homage to the original splendor created by Dario Argento.

There are gory murder scenes and outdated monsters and ghosts, that’s true, yet the psychological aspects of such film remain strong, as it seems to reside in the human mind a fear of the unknown that is exploited by the many maze-like sequence scenes in this movie. The ever-enhancing paranoia experienced by the protagonist, who is just curious enough to be the audience’s eyes and ears, is intensified by the fact that she is the outsider in that universe, and therefore hard to be held completely reliable in her suspicions.

There are many camera angles (such as low and oblique) in this feature that magnify the abnormal reality Suzy experiences. The highly stylized sets draw from Dr. Caligari, but the colors and lighting are the cherries on top of this spectacular scary tale delight.

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