Friday, July 11, 2008

#14: Suspiria

Image by We Buy Your Kids

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi (from the book "Suspiria de Profundis" by Thomas de Quincey)
Released August 12, 1977

Dario Argento does not care about your mental health.

If he did, the famed horror director's Suspiria would not be the relentless assault on your senses -- or your sanity -- that it is. It's like being shaken violently for almost 2 hours; even the DVD menu screen was freaking me out. My biggest regret in watching this movie today was not saving it for Halloween.

Suspiria is a twisted tale of witchcraft and murder in a creepy ballet academy. Jessica Harper plays the lead, an American girl who travels to Germany to be a part of the prestigious dance school. Upon her arrival on a stormy night, she is denied entry to the school as she witnesses one of the students running terrified from the building.

For a few minutes, we follow that student as she flees to an apartment and then is brutally (and I'm not using this word lightly. . . at one point, there is a close up of a knife plunging right into her heart) murdered. I won't go into any more detail, since the elaborate Wile E. Coyote style death is one of the most shocking parts of the entire movie.

Nothing, however, adds as much to the freakyness factor as the movie's score, written and performed by Argento and Italian prog-rock band Goblin (probably most famous in America for their music in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead). This shit is just otherworldly; if you're one of those people who likes to scare the little Trick-or-Treaters, crank this up when the lights go down on October 31st. It's grating, invasive, and chilling. You could have a blank screen and just play the soundtrack to Suspiria and you'd have crowds pissing in their seats.

Adding to the ambiance is, of course, Argento's direction, along with his use of vibrant mood-building color. When you see the color red in this movie, get ready for the shit to hit the fan. Even Argento's choices for the architecture and decorations add to the unsettling vibe.

The only things I found lacking were some of the overdubbed voices, and a somewhat thin story (which didn't really bother me, since this is definitely more of a mood movie than a 3 act Hollywood script).

There was a trend in the 1970's for movies to come to a crashing end (think about something like Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, where an explosive tragedy is simply followed by rolling credits, with no real denouement), and Suspiria is no exception. That kind of ending is perfect for a movie like this, where even the finale is met with an abrupt and violent crash.

For more on Suspiria:
- More information at IMDB and Wikipedia
- Buy the 3 Disc version which features a CD of the Goblin soundtrack (and now out of print) at Amazon..

The international trailer, from YouTube:

Here's that totally gruesome murder scene from the beginning of the movie:

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