arthouse

[Movie Review] Suspiria (1977) ★★★★★

Suzy Bannion afraid holding a sharp glass shard in Suspiria 1977

Suspiria mixes art and brutality in a stylish slasher masterpiece.


Suspiria is an artistic supernatural slasher horror that has become a horror classic. With beautiful stylish cinematography, an ominous atmosphere, great original shots and an outstanding musical score this is a visual and auditory masterpiece.

Told through a very simple storyline, the brutal kills and excellent artful cinematography stand out. It’s a highly surreal film with beautiful coloring that is a feast for the eyes. It’s the first installment of the Three Mothers Trilogy. Suspiria is a must-see classic for horror fans and for film fans in general.


Plot

Suzy Bannion is an American ballet dancer who is attending the prestigious dance academy in Germany. But when she first arrives, an upset girl rushes out of the academy and is later found murdered. While Suzy is welcomed and starts her lessons, she soon feels strange, faints and has a foreboding feeling that something is not right at the academy. 

When strange and creepy things start happening, putting the girls in danger and when more murders take place, Suzy goes out investigating and stumbles upon a sinister secret that hides underneath the academy.


Why you should watch it

The film is first and foremost a beautiful piece of art. It’s amazingly filmed and shot with outstanding cinematography, popping neon colors and a musical score by Goblin that surpasses anything you have ever heard in a movie. It’s invasive and forces itself unto the audience. The shots of the kills are ferocious and the music growls and the rousing drums add to a tense gripping and dangerous atmosphere.

Soft musical notes that remind of a child’s music box release some tension, but still add to a very foreboding feel of a dark fairytale. The way the story is told by means of the cinematography and music makes the story come to life, overwhelming the senses in a glorious way. 

The set design is excellent and adds to the elusive and rich atmosphere of the academy. The art deco style, the colorful wallpaper, the colored skylight, the whole interior design gives the story even more body. Fuchsia colors, red and pink dominate the interior with velvet and glass like an early evil twin of a Wes Anderson design. 

The film is visually stunning and breathtaking. The colors and lighting and sound effects also create a strange atmosphere, that isn’t quite real, as if Suzy finds herself trapped in a nightmarish realm. Like the scene in the swimming pool, where there’s no sound, but their voices, not even the movement of the water or splashes are audible.

Even dust whirls and dances in the light and people are hidden in the shadow, and while passing them become suddenly real into existence. Add to this weird angles and strange details of the story that are depicted in a creepy way. Wide angles create an atmosphere as if it were a play. 

It is a very visceral film, but also a very graphical one. The kills are brutal and graphic and highly original. But while watching you often forget you are watching a slasher. The kills are surreal, sometimes filmed from up close and sometimes from a distance making some kills intimately gruesome and some more surreal. 

The characters besides the very normal girl Suzy are very eccentric, stylish and mysterious. Which adds to the elusive vibe of the film. But the story evolves around Suzy. Although we don’t experience the story through her eyes, she is the main character that will become the final girl. 

It’s a film that doesn’t fit in just one genre. It’s a slasher, but also a supernatural occult film about witchcraft. It has a visceral elusive mysterious surreal style, but it is also very physical with graphic brutal horror, gore, maggots, blood and more. It’s fairytale-like, nightmarish and beautiful but ferocious and malignant. It’s an arthouse masterpiece and it’s cheesy at the same time. 

Fun fact is that when Suzy talks to the professor outside a building to know more about the occult, you can see Dario Argento in his wit T-shirt, in the reflection of the window behind them. 


My favorite part

The first bit of horror when the girl is running away from the academy through the woods is a beautiful piece of cinematography. It immediately sets the tone in atmosphere and style increased by the growling tones of a beast and tones of a cymbal creating fear and dread and horror. It follows through to make sure it’s a real slasher and a supernatural film when she knocks on the door of a friend to find a safe haven, but then is brutally attacked after seeing glowing eyes staring at her out of the dark behind the window. 

The scene where all the girls have to sleep in the ballroom after a creepy ordeal is a great scene too. While nothing really happens, there still is an ominous vibe going on due to the shadowy figure behind the curtain. It’s the first glimpse of the real killer. 

Although it’s a slasher, it isn’t about who in fact does the killing physically but it is all about the why. There is never an unmasking of the killer, but the villain behind it all does get unveiled in an enthralling slasher worthy finale. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★★

Scare factor: ★★★★☆

Surreal factor: ★★★★★

Gruesome factor: ★★★★★

Originality factor: ★★★★★


Cast and crew

Suspiria is based on Suspiria de Profundis by Thomas De Quincey. It is directed and written by Dario Argento and cowritten by Daria Nicolodi. It stars Jessica Harper (Suzy), Stefania Casini (Sara), Flavio Bucci (Daniel), Miguel Bosé (Mark), Alida Valli (Miss Tanner), Joan Bennett (Madame Blanc), Barbara Magnolfi (Olga) and Udo Kier (Dr. Mandel).

Duration: 98 minutes. Narrated by: Dario Argento, William Kiehl. Music by: Dario Argento, Goblin. Cinematography: Luciano Tovoli. Edited by: Franco Fraticelli. Produced by: Claudio Argento. Production company: Seda Spettacoli. Distributed by: Produzioni Atlas Consorziate.


Check the trailer below


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