As per tradition, I have gone with a horror film for my October blindspot selection. This year I decided to watch Suspiria, which is probably the most well-known film by Italian horror master Dario Argento and is also the first entry of Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy, which continued with the films Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007).
American ballet student Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives in the town of Freiburg, Germany to attend a prestigious dance academy. On the same night that she arrives, a student recently expelled from the school is found brutally murdered. Suzy befriends her roommate Sarah (Stefania Casini), who is curious about where the school’s teachers go at night, since their footsteps don’t seem to head towards the exit. As Suzy and Sarah investigate the secrets of the dance academy, they uncover something sinister within.
Dario Argento has gained a reputation as being one one of the all-time masters of horror and is known as one of the pioneers of the giallo subgenre. I’m not sure whether or not Suspiria can be considered a giallo, even though I am sure that the film shares a few traits. There are two elements of Suspiria that really stand out. The first is the film’s very surreal visual style, which makes heavy use of the colours red and blue. By my knowledge, these type of visuals have become a trademark of Argento’s. Without a doubt, it can be said that Suspiria looks pretty.
The other standout element Suspiria, which is probably the best one, is the film’s excellent score by Italian prog rock band Goblin. The film’s main theme is suitably creepy and whenever it comes on, you know something is about to happen. If there is something that I can take away from watching Suspiria, it would be the music.
Visuals and music aside, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed by Suspiria. I was actually wondering what was up when when film reached the halfway point and there weren’t really any scenes of horror, save for the brutal murder in the first fifteen minutes, which I would argue is the point where Suspiria peaks. Sure, there are other weird moments in the film, such as maggots falling from the ceiling or Suzy being attacked by a (very fake looking) bat, but I was expecting Suspiria to be much more horrific than it turned out to be.
It is at this point I should bring up Suspiria’s tagline, which states that “the only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92.” By what I’ve written so for, it can be surmised that I was underwhelmed by the first 92 minutes, but what about the last twelve? Well, it is during those final twelve minutes when Suzy finally finds out the truth about the dance academy, which most people by now would know involves a coven of witches. Even then, the horror doesn’t really amp up in the climax until practically the final three minutes of that twelve, even though it does include one of the more horrifying images in the film.
One final note that I will make is the appearance in Suspiria by a young Udo Kier, who shows up in the third act to provide some exposition. Since I know Kier more for his latter day roles, I didn’t even realize that it was him until after the fact. It was definitely a neat little cameo.
It’s probably safe to say that Suspiria was a bit overhyped for me, which ended up with me being underwhelmed by the results. The film has a great score and visual style, but I was disappointed in how nothing really happened for the bulk of the running time. I still think that Suspiria is an OK enough film, but I was really expecting it to be much more than it turned out to be. That said, I am perfecting willing to explore other films in Dario Argento’s filmography, particularly his early giallos. Perhaps then, I can see why he is considered to be a true master of horror.7 | FAIR