Suspiria (1977)

“Suzy Banyon decided to perfect her ballet studies in the most famous school of dance in Europe. She chose the celebrated academy of Freiburg. One day, at nine in the morning, she left Kennedy airport, New York, and arrived in Germany at 10:40 p.m. local time.”

‘Suspiria’, directed by Dario Argento in 1977, is an Italian horror movie that is usually classed as a part of the ‘giallo’ genre. It follows an American student as she becomes embroiled with a coven of witches at a German dance school. It’s violent, gory and almost parodically stylised. As with the genre’s British cousins being produced by Hammer, the performances are arch and theatrical, but where Argento departs from the British tradition is with the modern setting and the saturation of vivid, primary colours throughout his film. I was reminded of Nicolas Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’ when watching it, partly because of the Italian connection, but also because both films use red as a constant reference to the macabre. Whilst Roeg mostly did this subtly, however, Argento floods the screen with red. This overwhelming, almost sickly use of colour gives ‘Suspiria’ not only an unearthly quality, but also an unpalatable edge that perfectly matches the gratuitous visceral moments. It’s a glorious, grindhouse movie; an exploitation film that plays with the expectations of the audience whilst somehow also feeding them exactly what they want. It’s not subtle or restrained and it’s not believable, but it is riotous, inventive and visually stunning. It’s on ‘the list’ as a key example of the genre and of Argento’s style, but having watched it I’m now tempted to go deeper and hunt down more.

Would I recommend it? If you have a strong stomach and a good sense of irony then go for it! Watch it with ‘Don’t Look Now’ or Fellini for a good contrast or perhaps hunt down more ‘giallo’ movies.

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