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"Suspiria" has been acclaimed as director Dario Argento's masterpiece. And it certainly is. The plot is fairly simple. American ballet student Susy Banyon (Jessica Harper) travels to Germany to attend an exclusive ballet school. Once there, she discovers that there is more going on within than just dance instruction. Although the school's directress, Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) welcomes her warmly, she is unsettled by her aide, Nazified teacher Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), as well as several mysterious student disappearances. When her new friend Sara (Stefania Casini) is the latest to vanish, Susy begins her own investigation of the academy. Filmed in bright, lurid Technicolor, and accompanied by a thundering soundtrack by Goblin, Suspiria is a nightmare-come-to-life. The performances of Harper, Bennett and especially Valli (like Bennett, a major star of the Golden Age) are solid, as is the unrelentingly creepy atmosphere. Also on display are two especially gruesome murders which happen near the beginning of the film. Argento later said that he modeled the look of the film directly on Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and, indeed the similarities are apparent. "Suspiria" may not always make perfect sense plot wise, but it's a thrilling roller-coaster ride through what may very well be Hell. "Suspiria" ranks as one of the best Italian-made horror films of all time.
Argento's best known film is probably his most expressive. This is a gem to look at with all it's lush Italian colors seeping out like a blood covered canvas. If you are looking for a horror film for intellectuals, this isn't it, but if you want something that will definitely impress you, you've found it. It concerns an old dance company in Freiburg Germany that is headed up by an old witch matriarch who leads the coven in diabolical methods. An unsuspecting student, played wonderfully by Jessica Harper, finds herself piecing together a mystery when she arrives at the school in one of the most enigmatic and beautiful commencements of a film to date. Argento has music, colors, and sounds reverberate like an opera for our eyes to dazzle. He scares us with the rain, the closing of an automatic airport door, and loose tree branches that resemble evil lurking beings. This is one powerful moment. From then on, subtle hints are explored, the supernatural, science, one's faith. Never can we guess what is truly hiding at the academy. One scene of the dance students in the hall is superbly done with loud music, hideous heckling demonic shrieks and strange appearances, this is fantastic eye candy!
What sets Dario Argento apart from many of his contemporaries is his success with visual imagery. In a style where sudden visual shocks are used to thrill the audience, Argento creates elaborate deaths which cannot be quickly forgotten. The highly involved double-murder towards the beginning of the film still remains one of the most memorable scenes in horror history, standing next to the Psycho "shower scene" in pure sensory input. And in a technique so powefully employed here and here alone, Argento sets scene after scene aglow with color, using it to express the mood in ways only the subconscious can fully appreciate. All around, this is an excellent addition to the genre of horror cinema, one of the most expressive films to ever plunge a knife into the psyche of its viewers.
A German ballet school for girls is the setting for mysterious deaths, in
this 1977 horror story, written and directed by Dario Argento. "Suspiria"
is a visually stunning film.
The images contain objects we recognize, like people, buildings, and interior decor. But the objects seem vaguely menacing, and less real than surreal, as though they symbolize ideas, repressed desires, or subconscious fears. The vivid, rich colors, strange camera angles, deep shadows, and bright light piercing through darkness, all contribute to the impression that the viewer is trapped in someone else's nightmare.
One haunting segment of the film takes place in a huge, and strangely empty, public square, at night. A blind man and his German shepherd dog stand in the middle of the square, surrounded by imposing buildings of neo-classical architectural style. Some professional reviewers of this film have suggested that the public square is a veiled reference to Hitler and Nazism. Indeed, one could argue that the film's subtext is an indictment of fascism.
"Suspiria" is not for everyone. It is unsettling, and at times grisly. The plot is weak, and plot elements are not really explained. The acting is largely irrelevant. And while the background music is suitably gothic, it is also frantic and monotonous.
The best approach to this "art-house" film is to ignore the superficial plot, and focus instead on the fabulous cinematography, and the gothic images as conceptual metaphors.
Dario Argento's crowning achievement in stylish film-making.
Suspiria is the most beautiful horror film ever made. Every single frame of this film is expertly lit and colorful. With this technique Argento manages to create an almost unbearable amount of tension and the extremely brutal and bloody murder sequences look so good one can only admire their beauty. The music score by Goblin is one of the most effective score ever to grace a horror movie.
The story concerns an American ballet student who discovers that a coven of witches run the school as bodies begin piling up.
Not much of a story here, but that's really not the main thing. Style and atmosphere is the main course here, and it's execution is completely flawless. Acting and dubbing are okay and the dialogue is a bit stiff. But these are minor flaws in an operatic horror ride one is not likely to forget that easily.
So sit yourself down, turn out the light, and watch this movie in surround sound, 'cause the music alone will totally give you the creeps.
Susie Bannon (Jessica Harper) goes to a dance academy in Germany to
study. It turns out its run by a witches coven and they'll kill anybody
who threatens them...
That's about it for plot. There IS a plot but it jumps all over the place...but it doesn't matter. This movie is fascinating just to look at and hear it. The settings are truly bizarre and done in eye-popping color. They're complimented by the excellent use of color and lighting. Also the group Goblin contributes to it a downright terrifying and LOUD score which really starts to work on you. The murder scenes are graphic--VERY graphic. The opening double murder is shocking and bloody. There are many great sequences that you just look at in wonder HOW this was done. My favorite is when Sarah (Stefania Casini) is being stalked through the academy late at night by an unseen evil force.
Director Dario Argento has made a true masterpiece of horror. Its short on plot but the visuals and music more than make up for any of its drawbacks. The acting is good--especially by Joan Bennett (obviously enjoying herself) and Alida Valli who just LOOKS scary...especially those teeth of hers. Harper is also very good considering she was acting opposite people who didn't speak English! The poor dubbing is a little distracting but this is still a horror masterpiece. A must-see. TRY to see it in a theatre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Suspiria(1977) is given its cult status in the USA partialy due to the
extreme usage of colors. The colors in Suspiria(1977) gives it an artful
flavor that makes the movie beautiful to watch. Argento uses the colors
blue, green, red, and yellow in an unique manner. The director uses the
technicolor technique that was in use during the 1950s. This aspect gives
the movie a fairy tale appearence.
In the first 20 minutes, Dario Argento wanted to build up suspense and tension that was normally reserved for the climax of a film. The main character and story are built up in good fashion. The shoots of Suzy Bannion inside the taxi cab gives the viewer a feeling of claustrophobia and dread. The image and music in the opening moments add high voltage suspense to the film's pounding intensity level. The shots through the woods are fabulously done.
The double murder sequence is one of the most bloody scenes in modern horror films. It still retains its shock value after twenty four years. This one sequence makes any murder scene in a teen horror film today look tame. The only murder sequence from an Argento film to match this in its brutality is the arm removal scene in Tenebre(1982). The murder of the first victim is extremely violent and yet stylishly filmed.
Dario Argento owes his debt in making Suspiria to the early animations of Walt Disney and the art of Jean Cocteau. The main source of influence is the Disney film of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. The Snow White film would influence many Italian horror movie makers because of the impression it made on them as a child. The story of Suspiria(1977) was to originally take place in a children's school. This was changed because of the possible controversies this would cause in the film community of Italy.
In filming the murder scenes, the director wanted to pump them with intense horror that wouldn't let up. He wanted to create scenes of fear that would be carried by its gory visuals and ear pounding music. The murder scenes in the motion picture are given their own personal style. On doing this film and these murder scenes, Argento has said("Fear is a 370 degree centigrade body temperature. With Suspiria I wanted 400 degrees"). The murder sequences are one of the main things that make the film a gem of a horror movie.
Suspiria(1977) adds some movie lore to witchcraft mythology. The movie looks at the mythology of witches and witchcraft with keen interest. Its one of the best films on the subject of witches. Argento was fascinated by the subject of witches and used that fascination to make Suspiria(1977). Another source of influence is a section from the Thomas De Quincey's drug induced fantasy essay, Confessions of an Opium Eater called Suspiria De Profundis.
Daria Nicolodi gives an important contribution in co writing the screenplay. Suspiria is the only film where Daria Nicolodi had creative imput on an Argento flick. Part of the film was inspired by Nicolodi telling Argento about her Grandmother's experiences at a finishing school where black magic was practriced during the late hours of the night. Daria Nicolodi was to play Sara, Suzy's friend but got injured during shooting. The story is there to give structure to the visuals & music.
The death of Daniel, the blind piano player is set up with suspense. The scene takes an unexpected turn when he is attacked by his own dog. This is because the scene at its opening points to him being killed by a witch. Dario Argento along with cameraman Luciano Tovoli uses complex camera movement to make this scene work. This scene must have impressed Lucio Fulci when he saw the film that he would play homage to it in The Beyond(1981).
There has been a great debate among Argento fans on whether Deep Red(1975) or Suspiria(1977) is the director's masterpiece. Some see Suspiria(1977) as the masterpiece in the film cannon of Dario Argento. Others regard Deep Red(1975) as his true masterpiece. In my opinion, Tenebre(1982) is the masterpiece of Dario Argento because its complete in motifs that were seen in his films up to that point. Deep Red(1975) and Suspiria(1977) are Argento's top horror films of the 1970s.
I find it intriging that Suzy and Sara resemble sisters and have names that begin with the letter S. Suspiria was influenced by an obscure horror pic called La Residencia/The Finishing School(1968). Supiria contains a tinge of the giallo genre with a scene in the opening moments. The Goblin gives out another amazing soundtrack following their excellent score for Profondo Rosso. Luciano Tovoli does a fantastic job as the cinematographer in showcasing the nightmarish world of Suspiria(1977).
In a stormy night, the American dancer Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper)
arrives in Freiburg coming from New York to join a famous and expensive
ballet school for a three years training. On the next morning, she is
informed by the direction of the school that a student she met leaving
the place on the previous night was violently murdered and the police
is investigating the crime. She becomes friend of another student, Sara
(Stefania Casinia), and she realizes that the house is indeed a coven
of evil and destructive witches led by the powerful Helena Markus, the
Black Queen, who has a tremendous talent for doing evil.
It took me twenty-eight years to have the chance of watching "Suspiria". This masterpiece of Dario Argento has never been released on VHS in Brazil, and only a couple of months ago a new Brazilian distributor released this magnificent double DVD, recorded on DTS and having lots of extras, including a documentary about Dario Argento. "Suspiria" is outstanding, and has exceeded my best expectations: the story is excellent, its atmosphere recalls a nightmare, with the amazing use of strong colors and the soundtrack from the Italian band Goblin is very scary. The cult actress Jessica Harper has another great performance and her character Suzy seems to be trapped in a nightmare. I certainly include "Suspiria" among my favorite horror movies and I only regret the time I have missed without having the chance of watching this stunning work of one of my favorite directors. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Suspiria"
Note: On 08 July 2013, I saw this movie again.
This movie is generally regarded as Dario Argento's best work and it's not hard to see why. Argento's direction adds a lot of atmosphere to the movie, particularly in the way he uses lights and color. There's a genuinely creepy mood through the whole film that doesn't let up. Special mention should be given to the excellent score by Goblin, which really adds a lot to the film and helps set the mood in all the right places. "Suspiria" definitely earns its place as one the finest horror movies ever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If the story weren't so blatantly ridiculous, subtle as an elephant
sitting in the middle of a dining room and overdone, SUSPIRIA might as
well be another by-the-numbers horror movie with carefully placed
shocks and a final revelation where the Final Girl either emerges
triumphant from her ordeal or succumbs to her fate.
For a movie categorized as Italian Giallo, there is actually very little extreme scenes of gore as in other films of this genre. If anything, Dario Argento art directs this movie within an inch of its life, to a point where it actually succeeds to separate itself from its horror roots and begins to open itself to a perverse fairy tale. The first fifteen minutes of the movie are one of the most tense moments of mounting horror I have seen in a while (despite the horrible dialogue and the bad dubbing, courtesy of what seems to be the norm of Italian movies of the period). Its setup, consisting of Jessica Harper's character, Susie Bannion, arriving at the school of dance that she is to attend in the middle of a storm. (Why she doesn't take the "storm" as a signal that maybe this might not be the ideal place for her is anyone's guess.) A girl, Pat Hingle, runs out screaming into the night and winds up at the neighboring dorm where a friend takes her in, but soon later she meets a grisly fate in a fantastic sequence that has become a classic all its own.
What's shocking is not the absolute terror that reaches this early pitch in SUSPIRIA (compressing the horror which happens in PSYCHO by half an hour and setting the stage to the events which follow even when in retrospect they make little sense): it's the way it's set up. Instead of going for dark, moody colors or the more modern technique of filtering a sickly green or sepia or blue color to enhance elements of dread, instead of utilizing a dark-ambient theme with the occasional crashing violin, Argento decides to flood the scene in an orgy of color, rapid editing, and its unsettling, feverish Goblin score reminiscent of "Tubular Bells" with more primeval howls and drums, which escalate until they're practically reverberating all over the film. This is stunning, beautiful horror, a fable gone to the extreme perverse, technique over substance taken to its maximum level. SUSPIRIA is, quite simply, one of the best horror films ever made, and despite its age, it does not show it and proves that the oldest tricks in the book still work perfectly well. Watch it and enjoy, for this is a masterpiece.
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