Horror Month 2009: Suspiria (1977)


Badly dubbed or not, Horror Month 2009 must continue, we are unlike the French in that way!

Written By: Dario Argento & Daria Nicolodi
Directed By: Dario Argento

I didn’t know what to expect going into Suspiria, despite being a very big horror fan I had never made the time to see any Dario Argento films. The last thing I expected was arthouse horror, but that’s exactly what I ended up watching. Suspiria is very much a horror film, but at the same time it has elements that are associated with your dank arthouse picture. It doesn’t strive to find any sort of happy medium between the two twains, and that is a good thing because it is comfortable in both skins.

What I found most surprising about Suspiria was how gorgeous of a movie it is. Every time the movie enters a new place or begins a new scene I felt the need to snap off a screenshot. There are very few movies, let alone horror movies, that I can think of where such lavish sets were filmed in such beautiful fashion. Along with the music the beauty of the visuals propel Suspiria along. I found myself thinking of Alice In Wonderland a fair bit, my mind also flashed to Eyes Wide Shut a few times, the visuals in Suspiria are constructed to create a fantasy world very similar to the one Alice discovers. The imagery found in Suspiria is gorgeous, I could say this a million times, that’s how true it is.

The story in Suspiria doesn’t leave me with much to talk about, an American girl in a foreign land notices that weird things are happening around her, and eventually she deduces that witches are afoot. The story doesn’t matter that much, it exists to prop up the trance like qualities of the rest of the film. Suspiria is a movie to get lost in, a movie where you need to allow the visuals and the music to carry you away. It’s like a fever dream, it may not make perfect sense, but you know just enough so that the haunting music and pretty pictures have meaning. The violence also has meaning, it doesn’t just happen, the gruesome deaths happen within the context of the dream like state the movie creates.

There is one bit of chunky expositional dialogue with a professor late in the movie that could have been removed, I’d much rather have had Susan learn that information in bits and pieces throughout the course of the movie. The bat scene is not that pretty to watch, the bat is far too fake looking to buy as an actual bat. I was going to bitch about the bad dubbing, but over time it grew on me. At the start it is woefully bad, the lips of the American actors don’t match their words, but over time the dubbing faded to the background so much that I didn’t pay it any heed.

The fever dream analogy is the best way I can think of to adequately describe Suspiria to you. It’s similar to any fantasy tale, you are willing to go along for the ride or you aren’t. I was more than willing and enjoyed the heck out of this picture. If one chooses to they could get lost in the visuals Argento provides, or become entranced by Goblin’s score. I often found myself doing the same, I spent a good deal of time marveling at the beautiful composition of the first death scene. Suspiria is widely regarded as Argento’s best work, and based on my experience with the film I look forward to delving into the rest of his catalog. If you like witches or are into dreamy imagery then Suspiria is definitely a movie you should see. If nothing else it’ll never allow you to look at seeing eye dogs the same way again.





9 responses to “Horror Month 2009: Suspiria (1977)

  1. mcarteratthemovies

    This movie keeps popping up during discussions of classic horror movies (for some reason, though AMC is not showing it during Fearfest ’09). You’ve convinced me to see it even though I probably won’t sleep through the night for weeks after.

  2. I don’t think this film could be shown on broadcast TV, with the amount of material that would have to be cut it wouldn’t make a lick of sense, and it doesn’t completely make sense as is. ūüôā

    It’s definitely worth a watch, if for no other reason than the experience and it is truly one of the most gorgeous pictures I have ever seen.

  3. Mark Middlemas

    You have inspired me to seek out more Argento. I loved Suspira…so bizarre. I saw it years ago and I need to make time for it again. I wasn’t crazy about Argento’s cut of Dawn of the Dead, but I like him as a filmmaker and all around “film guy.” He’s like John Carpenter in that he knows what he wants to do and will go to great lengths, even writing his own film scores (i.e. Goblin) to make it happen. I dare say he is a more visual storyteller than Carpenter, and I sometimes come away wanting more from the narrative. That said, he is very much worth exploring.

  4. The Carpenter comparison is apt, Argento also has his share of films that flat out miss, but he was always trying for something, and I respect that. Glad I’m getting you to check out more from him, because at the very least I always love his visuals.

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