THE STORY - Suzy (Jessica Harper) travels to Germany to attend ballet school. When she arrives, late on a stormy night, no one lets her in, and she sees Pat (Eva Axén), another student, fleeing from the school. When Pat reaches her apartment, she is murdered. The next day, Suzy is admitted to her new school, but has a difficult time settling in. She hears noises, and often feels ill. As more people die, Suzy uncovers the terrifying secret history of the place.
THE CAST - Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Barbara Magnolfi, Susanna Javicoli, Eva Axén, Alida Valli & Joan Bennett
THE TEAM - Dario Argento (Director/Writer) & Daria Nicolodi (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME - 98 Minutes
THE GOOD - Dario Argento crafts a sleek and inventive horror film that is downright visceral in its execution. The use of color and color theory is in a whole other playing field and few horror filmmakers have used color as well as Argento does here. The score is one of the greatest to appear within the horror genre. Jessica Harper's performance is one that should be closely examined and applauded.
THE BAD - Nothing
THE OSCARS - None
THE FINAL SCORE - 10/10
Read the FULL REVIEW
By Josh Williams
Films are an art form that can capture unique emotional experiences within their individual frames. Specific films will evoke certain emotions that you seemingly cannot escape, whether it connects with a specific moment in your life or if the simple execution of the film is so immaculate and masterful that you cannot help but be moved by what you are witnessing. Films are meant to get under our skin, into our veins and exist within our lives on a truly intimate level. A film that is on this level for me and continues to impact me after each repeat viewing is Dario Argento's magnum opus, "Suspiria."
After arriving at a prestigious ballet academy in Germany, American newcomer Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) comes to the realization that there may be something hidden beneath the surface of this acclaimed academy. Something that is not only ominous in nature but ferociously violent as well. After a slew of murders involving students who attend the academy the curtains slowly begin to peel back for Suzy as the dark secrets that are kept underneath the floorboards reveal themselves.
"Suspiria" is an art-house horror film through and through, blurring the line between a traditional horror film and a psychedelic avant-garde type film. Argento brilliantly collides the world that the protagonist Suzy thinks she is going to be living in and the world that the film truly takes place. Although "Suspiria" clocks in at a brisk hour and 32-minute run-time, the pacing is absolutely flawless. There is a never a moment that should be cut a little shorter or a moment that should have lasted a little longer. Everything plays out in full right before our eyes and we see everything we are meant to see within the moment. Never is there a time where we wish we would have been shown more, particularly within the murder scenes. Often times, the indulgence of violence and gore in horror films is sought after by horror fans, which is totally fine. But Argento finds a healthy middle ground in this specific region of the genre. One murder, for example, will never show a stabbing with a knife in a single take but it would rather cut between the stabbing motion and the actor's reaction to getting stabbed. But with another murder, every single cut in the scene is highlighting a different moment of the murder in its entirety. Argento is able to utilize both of these styles to great effect and he knows the exact moment to use them so that it will be the most effective.
Not only is the film paced in a genius manner but it is visually one of the most stunning horror movies to date. It would easily land a spot in the top five most visually appealing horror movies ever made. The shot composition is strikingly haunting but what sets the film apart from others of the same caliber is the use of color. There are other horror filmmakers who have a knack for how to utilize color in their films but Argento treats color like it's a character in the film. The color serves a clear and distinct purpose which is responsible for certain emotional shifts, power dynamic shifts, or even specific story cues within the film. An entire scene will be coated with an almost blinding shade of red and several different saturation levels of that same hue. But in the exact same scene, Argento will cut to a piercing green or a mellow blue and force our mindset to completely shift in tone and feel that the weight of the film is changing. There is a dedication to using color as a tool to advance not only the story but the emotional impact of it as well.
"Suspiria" is one of those films that has had a tremendous influence upon those who have seen it in the 41 years it has been with us. Some of it is indescribable and other times it comes across as crystal clear. But the biggest component that helps deliver the emotionally visceral experience of "Suspiria" is through Jessica Harper's performance. Harper takes on this confident, intelligent and curious character that resonates with just about all of us. There is typically a moment in everyone's life where you have suspected that something much larger has been happening in the background of what you are seeing. Whether it actually turns out to be that larger thing or not is case by case, but Harper's experience is a terrifying and an emotionally scarring one.
The character of Suzy Bannion wants nothing more than to dance at the most prestigious ballet academy in the entire world and that suddenly is ripped from her once the terror hidden within the walls of the school is revealed. It is clear that Suzy has dedicated her entire life to get to this one place and now, due to unfortunate circumstances, it is being taken away from her in one of the most terrifying ways possible. The character of Suzy and the subtle nuanced performance from Jessica Harper are what makes the film. Harper's ability to show the slightest bit of discourse or fear in a moment through a change in body language, her delivery of a line of dialogue, or even just the shift in her eyebrows or mouth is downright outstanding.
"Suspiria" is a horror film that is not only terrifying in every way imaginable but it also affects you on an incredibly deep emotional level. The character of Suzy Bannion is what sets "Suspiria" apart from other films of the same caliber. The deliberate and genius use of color from Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli is not only a stunner to the eyes but also serves a purpose to the overall story and the emotional tone of the film. Auditorially, the iconic score by Argento and Goblin is also utilized in such a way that all of these combined elements make "Suspiria" an art-house horror film that will never lose its lasting effect on those who experience it. With every viewing, "Suspiria" gets more and more gut-wrenching, more and more emotionally devastating, and most of all, more and more brilliant.