#85: Suspiria

The Rainbow Connection…of fear!

Director: Dario Argento
Year: 1977
Genre: Horror

Strange that our next stop after Dancer in the Dark should be a psychedelic horror, or giallo, film about a dancer in a very dark environment. Let’s just pretend that I’ve wanked on about the similarities between these two wonderful movies, joked about how Suspiria could perhaps be one of Selma’s musical dream sequences in Dancer in the Dark, and move right on to exploring Suspiria as a film in its own right.

Suspiria is, Italian horror master, Dario Argento’s undisputed masterpiece. Though I’ve not seen his previous classic, Deep Red (1975), I doubt it will compete against Suspiria‘s dream-like qualities, which I find particularly appealing. The narrative follows an American dance student, Suzy, who arrives at a prestigious dance academy on a stormy night in Germany. Stormy nights and foreign surroundings help set the tone for this psychedelic nightmare. Our American protagonist is very much the outcast from the get-go, and we watch her become more and more alienated as each student mysteriously disappears, the death count rises, and circumstances get stranger and stranger.

Suspiria is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen with its highly saturated colour palette, elaborate set designs and stylised camera work. The acting style is quite odd, as it is in most giallo films, which may be due to the mix of English speaking and non-English speaking cast members. Many may shrug it off as bad acting, but I think it adds to the film’ s surreal atmosphere. Watching Suspiria is like letting a nightmare play out in front of you. Mesmerising and terrifying.

If you aren’t already down with the antics of Dario Argento and the Giallo film genre then do some fucking homework! Alright, settle down. I’m no giallo expert myself, and I’ve only seen about four Argento films, which means that you don’t have to be an Italian Cinema enthusiast to enjoy Suspiria. You should probably be partial to a bit of blood and gore before you delve into this nightmare however, ‘cos IT. IS. VIOLENT. Start drooling, gore-hounds. There is bloodshed by the bucket load and internal organ extractions a plenty! One thing to note about giallo films, and Italian cinema in general, is that most of the violence is shot gracefully with death scenes being framed as visual art as opposed to gritty, disgusting visions of reality. The blood is bright red providing a more striking contrast to the imagery. The placement of the subjects within the frame is often composed symmetrically and/or melodramatically distancing the viewer from the reality of the scene. The finished corpse is then exhibited in all its bloody glory as one of the director’s killer’s works of art. Such sensibilities, the art of finding beauty in the revolting, reflect the desires of those who enjoy on screen violence. It’s a form of escapism, for those of us who aren’t already sickos. I’m not saying that I’m rooting for the killers in these movies but one certainly relishes in the danger and the fear. The ability to enjoy fear in a simulated environment is an interesting one.

If you’re looking for a new experience in horror…

I recommend Suspiria,

after midnight,

alone.

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