Dario Argento, you magnificent madman.
Yes, I was a tad apprehensive about seeing an italian film in such high regard as Suspiria. You can’t really approach such a film from a completely neutral standpoint, but I had the rare pleasure of seeing it for the first time. Yet, I’ve seen it a long time ago. As a kid, watching TV in the 80s, as a late movie that I didn’t remembered. A few scenes were more familiar than others. I didn’t recognize any faces but I’ve seen that nightmarish red corridor before. I’ve heard that haunting theme before. Never this bright, never this clear.
I must confess I was secretly thinking of not reviewing this film and that decision went out the window before the first body hit the floor. I didn’t think it was necessarily fair to hold up a 70’s horror film to the rest of the Fantasia line-up. As it happens, it’s not fair at all – for the rest of the lineup, that is. Suspiria gets your heart pounding just fine, thank you very much. The amazing, astounding color captured in the film might as well make the land of Oz look pale. You thought Wonka’s Chocolate Factory was an acid trip? This is a cocaine overdose.
The other thing is the sound. Everything sounds crisp clear. The music of Goblin is going to haunt my dreams for weeks. It’s in my head right now. But although we can hear the characters talk, I want to offer a personal (just personal!) word of advice. Forget the dialog. Yeah, there’s a mystery, witchcraft, exposition, blah, blah. The silly lines are just background noise, spoken sweetly to denote the heroine, urgently to mark the next victim and just plain boring when someone has to expose enough of a backstory to threat the whole thing together. I believe the plot and the dialog are intentionally given a very low priority because they don’t really matter here.
What matters, is the suspense and the thrill and the danger. And danger is plenty here. Redefine the damsel in distress for this movie: suffer, scream and die horribly. I don’t think there’s any redemptive quality here. Surprisingly, Suspiria passes the Bechdel-Wallace test but I’m also pretty damn sure this is not a female-friendly film. Actually, it’s not a friendly film period. Argento is making a horror film, courtesies be damned.
On the other hand, the male hero is obsolete in this world. He would just get in the way, so he doesn’t exist or just shows up as false hope or to do some exposure and is never heard from again. Well, one guy bites the dust at some point in probably the less colorful death of the movie. It’s almost like the director wanted to show the public how lacking that scene is, than everything surrounding the victim is black and grey.
For his female victims, Argento pains rooms in color. He films from behind lightbulbs, from high above buildings and into window reflections. There’s literally a hundred shots in this movie that could not have existed before and half more than have not been done since then. The music permeates the atmosphere, assaults the victim’s senses and becomes muted around corners, disappears behind a closed door. It’s like we get a reprieve from it as death is delayed, but it’s not far away.
Extremely recommended because you love films. If you doubt a horror movie can be a masterpiece and still remain very much bloody and violent, here’s your proof of concept. That being said, this is the farthest thing you’ll see from light viewing. You gotta be in this thing to watch it, so I gotta say this is not weekend at the movies, this is not blockbuster night, this is not netflix and chill. If you can’t sit down and watch this movie and fall in love with film again… Actually, screw that. Go watch this. You don’t have to get it. It’s out to get you.
That will do for now.