This is one film that we at The Horror Hothouse Review have always admired and enjoyed, but it was never amongst the top tier of our favourite and most-watched horrors. When Luke introduced me to the film at the tender age of 16 or so, I absolutely loved it. Subsequently, over the years I have shown it to pretty much all of my friends. Yet somehow it was only this year that this movie that was previously watched very rarely became permanently on the top of our ‘To Watch’ pile whenever we were having a movie night. We were settled on the sofa, in the dark, popcorn and sweeties scattered out on the glass coffee table in front of us and Suspiria was blaring loudly from the TV set, lighting up the room in glorious technicolour. That’s where it happened, the spark. The next night we watched it again and then we watched it again shortly after.
This gem of a film from Italian director Dario Argento is set in Germany. The story focuses on a young American dancer called Suzy (Jessica Harper) who arrives at a grand ballet academy in the middle of a dark, rainy night. Unable to get into the school Suzy comes to the realisation that she will have to spend the night in a hotel and return in the morning; during which time one of the school’s existing students is killed in a chillingly violent attack by an unknown assailant. In the morning Suzy returns and it isn’t long before she starts to figure out that something sinister is afoot at the school.
Argento really did hit the goldmine of creativity when filming Suspiria. Firstly, he’s managed to create a truly great film about witches, something that is no easy feat, and, secondly, he’s managed to make it into a piece of real art. His direction goes far beyond inventive camera angles and a great score. The use of shocking reds, blues and greens to light scenes is ingenious and truly unique. It takes it from just a film to a visual masterpiece. The camera angles also highlight Argento’s creative eye, particular favourite shots of mine include the perspective through the light bulb and the framing of the student by the hatch/window in the wall. Superb.
Similarly to one of my other favourite directors John Carpenter, Argento has a fantastic ability to build atmosphere, most significantly mystery and suspense. This talent he really puts into play in Suspiria and at no point during the movie do you feel yourself growing weary of the plot. Sometimes his ability to create intrigue can push the viewer a little too far, however. I’ve often found myself second guessing a little too much in the film, which has sometimes brought to the forefront a few flaws in the plot, making it at times hard to be truly believable.
It’s no wonder than Suspiria is often referred to as one of the greatest horror films of all time and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet seen it to go out and buy the DVD as soon as they possibly can. This truly is Argento’s magnum opus and has continued to be a real treat for audiences since its release in the late 70s.