Suspiria is a 1977 Italian supernatural horror film directed by Dario Argento, who co-wrote the screenplay with Daria Nicolodi.
Suzy Bannion, a young American ballet student, arrives in Germany during a torrential downpour to study at a prestigious German dance school. She sees another student, Pat, flee the school in terror. Suzy is refused entry to the school and forced to stay in town overnight. Pat takes refuge at a friend’s apartment and tells her that something sinister happened at the school. Pat is ambushed by a shadowy figure who stabs her repeatedly. They drag her to the roof of the apartment building before hanging her with a noose by throwing her through the building’s skylight. Pat’s friend is also killed after being impaled by a falling giant shard of glass while trying to alert other tenants to the murder.
Suzy returns to the school the next morning, where she meets Miss Tanner, the head instructor, and Madame Blanc, the deputy headmistress. Tanner introduces Suzy to Pavlos, one of the school’s servants. She also meets classmates Sarah and Olga, her new roommate. Suzy experiences an unsettling encounter with one of the school’s matrons and Blanc’s nephew, Albert, before passing out during a dance class. When she regains consciousness, Suzy learns that Olga has thrown her out of her apartment. This forces her to live at the school, with Sarah in the room next door.
While the students are preparing for supper one night, maggots rain down from the ceilings of their rooms. This is due to a shipment of spoiled food in the attic. They are forced to sleep in one of the dance studios. During the night, a woman enters the room but is obscured by a curtain hung around the room’s perimeter. Sarah, frightened by her hoarse and labored breathing, recognizes her as the school’s headmistress, who is supposedly out of town.
Sarah tells Suzy that she was the one on the intercom who refused her entry the night Pat was murdered. She reveals that Pat was behaving strangely before her death and promises to show Suzy the notes that she left behind. Sarah finds that Pat’s notes are missing and is forced to flee when an unseen assailant enters the room. They pursue her through the school before cornering her in the attic. She escapes through a small window before falling into a pit of razor wire. It entangles her and this allows her pursuer to kill her by slashing her throat.
What an earth is going on at this school? Is it just bad luck or is there some purpose behind it all?
It takes something special for a film to stand out and be remembered 45 years after its release. So what is it about Suspiria? What makes it stand above the rest?
To start with, you really have to go into this movie and know you absolutely cannot pick it apart. Don’t overthink and just enjoy the madness. That’s not to say it makes little sense, it definitely has a cohesive plot but there’s a lot that occurs that is not explained, so make peace with that before viewing.
Creatively, Suspiria is amazing. Its biggest selling point is how visually striking it is and how fascinating the colour palette. Every scene pops out at you and the set design is truly a feast for the eyes. The effects hold up and I really enjoyed the vivid blood.
The soundtrack is fantastic, if a little overused in places. But in the right moments, it’s perfect. It creates a real sense of unease and dread. The opening of Suspiria is awesome and a good example of the music being used well.
The acting was brilliant, besides a few cheesy moments. It was, however, confusing when some characters were randomly dropped and never seen again (what happened to Suzy’s potential budding romance?).
My favourite moment besides the opening was when we meet the Black Queen. She was the essence of scary. Her voice and sounds were so raw and incredible. Definitely a scene that will live on in my memory, especially late at night.
Personally, I’m not one for 70’s movies, I find them often slow, meandering and full of terrible performances. Perhaps I’m not watching the right ones, but from my viewing experienced, it seems like Suspiria was ahead of the rest and before its time.
Overall, Suspiria is striking, unique and fills you with unease. But it’s the little things that slowly chip down the score. Its lack of explanation, the abrupt ending, the randomly cut storylines, it goes on. But, I enjoyed it for what it was, a scary tale to tell in the dark.
The Final Score - 7/10