Our first entry in our Week of Horror series is Suspiria, a classic 1977 film by legendary Italian film maker Dario Argento.
Note: Some slightly NSFW images inside
The first entry in The Three Mothers trilogy, Suspiria tells the tale of an American ballet student, Suzy Bannion, attending a highly respected dance academy in Freiburg, Germany. While the academy appears normal enough, things quickly take a turn for the worst…violent killings, strange noises, teachers acting suspiciously, maggots falling from the ceiling…things just get weirder and weirder. Taking up the initiative, Suzy discovers the strange secret the staff at the academy is hiding, and takes it upon herself to set things right.
The reason Suspiria succeeds as a film is that it does a great job of dangling a carrot on a stick in front of you. As the film goes on, you begin to feel an uncontrollable urge to find out what is going on. Few clues are given, and chances are you won’t be guessing the entirety of the ending until it is happening. The way events play out is also fantastic; things don’t get gradually worse, they START bad and stay that way (however, as previously stated, they do get weirder.)
Suspiria is widely known for its unique visual flair. In daytime shots, everything looks normal. During nighttime shots, bright colors that appear to pop off the screen are in abundance. Reminiscent of a candy store, these colors are so lively and bright you can almost taste them, and seemingly have a life all their own. Through the use of anamorphic lenses and the implementation of imbibition prints, Argento managed to capture a unique look in Suspiria that stands as one of the most surreal and dreamlike visual styles ever to appear in a film.
Suspiria is also well known for its fantastic soundtrack, composed by the Italian rock group Goblin. In addition to providing the score for many of Argento’s films, they provided music for the European version of Dawn of the Dead (known as “Zombi”.) The music fits the visuals on screen quite well, perfectly representing the dread and terror that the various characters are feeling. The visual style is a huge part of the film, but its soundtrack really helps complete the illusion of watching someone else’s nightmare.
Suspiria is a legendary horror film, and one of the most cinematic horror movies you will ever see. There is so much symbolism contained within its imagery that you could watch it a hundred times and see something new every time. With amazing colors, a great soundtrack, a unique sense of dread, and an ending that keeps you guessing up until the moment all is revealed, Suspiria deserves to be at the top of your list.