Suspiria (1977)

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Daria Nicolodi and Dario Argento
(number 321)

I know Suspiria is a horror and that it’s a bit on the splattery side and that it’s talked about in Juno. Is it the one they watch? and someone’s writhing while being impaled? I can’t remember. But it is about a ballet school, so I expect some pretty dancing before the horror sets in.

The music immediately sets the scene. It’s that kind of unsettling tinkly stuff that I have come to associate with horror movies. This movie is older than I am, I guess horror movies in the 70s all used this kind of tinkly spooky stuff? The human whispery screaming/singing over it is called back to in American Horror Story: Coven to excellent effect. It’s impossible not to talk about the soundscape as it’s one of the main characters in the film. It heightens the tension incredibly.

What a fantastic set front the ballet school frontage is, just… stunningly red and candy house and gorgeous. All the interiors are batshit crazy patterns and bright colours as well. I can see why this movie is a classic just from a sound and visual design standpoint. It’s really well done. It’s deeply uncomfortable to watch because of these, but as the same tricks are used again and again it becomes a little dull. Like, there is something to be said for building up to the deafening discordant music and flashing red lights, rather than using them all every time something weird happens.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I love Suzy and Sarah, but I don’t know. They seem very typical horror movie heroines. There’s not really a whole lot of depth in the writing or character development or evolution.

Bechdel test: Pat has lots of conversation with her friend but her friend doesn’t seem to be named, so it doesn’t pass in the first 15 minutes but after the death of Pat it passes over and over. Suzy talks to Sarah, Olga, Miss Tanner, Madame Blanc. There’s lots of named women characters talking throughout the rest of the film.

Best line:
Suzy: but what does it mean? to be a witch.
Dr Mandel: well, as a believer in the material world and psychiatrist to boot I believe that the current spread of belief in witchcraft and the occult is part of… mental illness. Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.

State of Mind: It must have been a tonne of fun to film this. The set, costume, sound designers all went bats. And then getting to destroy it all in the end with exploding props and wind machines and fire. I can see the appeal. As a watch it’s not very pleasant. And I don’t just mean because it’s a horror, the soundtrack started to give me a headache, and the sound monitoring was so low different, low for the dialogue and super high for the frights, it just felt kind of annoying and stressful. Storywise there’s very little surprises for those familiar with horror stories, plenty of gore, gross out stuff and some animals in peril. I don’t think I’ll be watching it again, but I’d be happy to have a couple of stills from it framed on a white wall.

Watched movie count


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