Of all the movies on the docket this month, Suspiria was the one I was most excited for and the most nervous about. You don’t see a lot of horror movies without hearing something about Suspiria eventually. It’s a little hard to avoid hearing about it recently with the remake coming out in select cities October 26th and a wider release slated for early November. My first introduction to Dario Argento’s masterpiece was a few years ago from while I was a TA for a student whose screenplay was heavily inspired by the aesthetic of Suspiria. This film is hard to find streaming anywhere except for this place called Tubi. Tubi’s a free, ad-powered Netflix alternative partnered with Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate. If you hate ads as much I do though, maybe look elsewhere for this one.
All those ads can’t detract too much from this beautiful masterpiece about an American ballerina who scores an invitation to attend the most prestigious German ballet academy but discovers there’s something far more sinister happening inside those walls. While that sounds like your average cultist horror film, Suspiria has a lot more going for it. There’s a reason this film is getting what looks to be a very promising remake but I’m not sure that will be able to hold up to the amazing design elements of Argento’s cult classic.
While the pacing is a little off (perhaps in part since it’s from 1977), the story builds its tension so well. The first fifteen minutes build the paranoia that lingers throughout the film. There’s something weird happening in that school and Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) and Sara (Stefania Casini) are going to figure it out. Even though towards the end of the second act there’s a huge info dump that explains most of the odd events, there are still some surprises left in store for you at the end of the film that keeps you going through this beautiful and horrifying landscape. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the film is scary though except for a couple of moments here and there. Mostly the film is just paranoid and stressful and sometimes that’s better than cheap scares and gore.
The opening lines of the movie set the tone for a dark fairy tale which comes to life with the vibrantly colored dance academy full of reds and greens and blues. Everything in the school has such a bold pattern and color to it, it creates a fantastic landscape that adds to the fairytale feel of the film but shrouds it in this terrifying nightmarish landscape. It’s so unsettling and yet so inviting at the same. The film is like one beautiful fever dream. Even the gore has this beautiful quality to it. The blood looks like vibrant paint rather than your usual corn syrup or ketchup. I love horror films that recognize there’s beauty always mixed with horror and vice versa. Maybe not always off the screen in real life but certainly on the screen.
The film has its drawbacks, badly dubbed audio and some poor acting, but overall Suspiria is a real treat to watch. It’s maybe not all the hype it was given to me by others, but it’s certainly a great film overall.