Suspiria (1977)

Dario Argento’s iconic jewel coloured splatterfest has truly stood the test of time in terms of changing the game for horror films and maintaining its thrills and scares 40 years on. The film follows Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) a young ballerina who attends an esteemed dance school in Freiberg. Suzy soon realises that there has been a lot of supernatural activity occurring and she finds herself wandering down a spiral of magic and danger as she faces a coven of witches that rule the school. One of the most recognisable horror films that helped to put Italian horror on the map, Suspiria remains iconic to this day thanks to Argento’s signature use of colour, Goblin’s brilliant score and the innovative death scenes that will surprise even the biggest gore fans. Directed by Argento and co-written by Argento and partner, Daria Nicolodi, Suspiria remains a firm favourite of horror fans around the globe thanks to its unique style and revolutionary effects.

The first element to talk about is how beautiful the use of colour and set design is. Argento expresses the moods through an exaggerated use of colour, in particular reds and blues. His aesthetic is heavily influential amongst filmmakers and it’s easy to see why. He treats his film as though it were a piece of art and he isn’t afraid to make something beautiful and contrast this with an extremely grotesque image. The juxtaposition of these enhances the horrors that happen onscreen particularly the opening murder sequence. Colour and set design is a signature of Argento’s, particularly during this period and in Suspiria he masters creating a world that seems detached from regular society. The only scenes that are relatively “normal” are those where Suzy seeks outside help but the aesthetics for the school and the scenes in which the witches use their powers feel as though they take place elsewhere in a different universe.

In the leading role we have Jessica Harper as aspiring ballerina, Suzy Banyon. Having travelled from America to Germany, Suzy is immediately isolated and thrust into this situation where fellow students are mysteriously disappearing one by one. What makes Suzy a great character is how outspoken she is from her first interaction with the Headmistress and her inability to simply blend. Her curious nature is what eventually puts her in harm’s way but she approaches the mystery with intelligence. Harper’s performance personifies the Argento character perfectly as she is highly expressive whilst also remaining believable in the terror. Overacting roles is often found in Italian horrors of that time and while some people may not like this aspect, I think that it adds a charm to Suspiria and gives it a whimsical feel.

One thing that comes to many minds when thinking about Suspiria is the soundtrack by Goblin. It could be argued that the score has helped Suspiria to garner such praise and makes it a memorable film because of how well it works with the film as a whole. For a film that is so unique in its set design and writing, the music has to reflect the absurdity. From the opening track that features the immediately recognisable drumroll followed by the iconic theme that includes the whispers of “witch” which feed into the overall expressionism of the film. The tension that the music builds is relentless and refuses to allow you to feel at ease which makes it as much of a character in the film.

Overall, Suspiria is a must see for horror and gore films alike. I’m assuming if you are a horror fan then you’ve seen this and if not, do so immediately! But even if you’re not a horror buff, I would definitely recommend watching it if you can handle the gore. It’s such a unique film watching experience and gems like this don’t come around often.

What do you think of Suspiria? Let me know in the comments below!

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