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(Dario Argento) 1977
Argentoís simple but disturbing horror film Suspiria begins with the
arrival of Susy, an American ballet student, at an impossibly stormy airport,
and from its very first scenes, the director starts piling on the fear. Even
watching the mechanism of the automated airport door feels like a threat here,
as everything is focused on long enough that a palpable sense of dread develops.
In the opening scenes, menace is noticeable everywhere, even though it doesnít
exactly make logical sense. Susyís jitters about starting at her new school
are made real by her astonishingly unwelcoming greeting. Another girl flees from
some unseen horror, and then is scared by the wind, and the tricks her eyes play
on her in the dark. The filmís soundtrack is filled with unidentified,
otherworldly howls and shrieks and an ever-quickening beat. This buildup
doesnít take long to pay off, however, since within fifteen minutes, thereís
a sequence filled with carnage thatís so startlingly explicit that itís
tough to imagine anyone feeling at ease again for the rest of the film.
bold, primary colors that dominate Argentoís compositions suggest a cheerier
tone than the film takes, and though there a few flirtatious moments, thereís
little that lightens the tone of the film once it turns into a murder mystery.
Everything about the film is baroque and overdone, including the obviously fake
gore, but it gives the film a distinctive style that makes it exciting in a way
that more sensible horror films arenít. Argento has a great sense of rhythm,
and his editing is styled so that the movie seems to gain momentum through the
camera movements. Less admirable is
the stilted vocal delivery from the wooden actors and the sometimes-obvious
dubbing, though sometimes when the cast members shut up, they achieve the same
physical presence as silent film actors. Among speaking actors, Udo Kierís
hilarious explanatory scene is definitely the highlight. As we follow the lead
waif through this amped-up version of Rosemaryís Baby, the moments of
excitement come frequently enough (even if some appear from left field, as the
maggot infestation scene does) that we donít mind the surprisingly hypnotic
lulls that lie in between.
unrated version of Suspiria is a must if you intend to watch the film.
The few murders that the film shows are so shockingly gruesome that they deserve
to be seen in their undiluted form. Still, most of the film operates on
suggestive, instead of explicit, scares, and succeeds quite well. Thereís an
impressive chase scene in which the only evocation of a young womanís pursuer
are the changes in the shadows and light in her environment, and while the
soundtrack pulses during most of the scene, Argento realizes that when tension
begins to mount, silence is scarier than any music could be. This scene is
surpassed, however, by the nail-biting last twenty minutes of the movie, in
which the Nancy Drew-esque heroine finally gets to the bottom of the mystery.
Itís a thrilling payoff to a film thatís been all buildup to that point.
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