In this week’s Foreign Film Tips we look at the garish world of Suspiria.
Some films are repulsive and brilliant at the same time. And Dario Argento’s Suspiria, originally released in 1977, fits roughly into this category. It is a horror in which style trumps substance at every turn, so while it will stimulate your visual cortex, the other bits of your brain could be left a little starved. Or at best thoroughly confused.
The story follows a US ballet student as she heads to ply her craft in Germany, finding out almost immediately that something seriously deranged is going on at the school which becomes her home. Gory deaths, a coven of witches and some alarming set design all follow, although you’ll almost certainly struggle to take everything in during your first watch.
Whether or not you’ll feel capable of going back for a second look is down to personal taste and fortitude.
Most scenes take place in rooms which are Technicolor nightmares, often steeped in surreal pastel shades or twisted beyond normality by an off-kilter camera angle. The notorious first murder of the movie is a particularly good example of this, although it does become somewhat hilarious without context. Or even with it.
The soundtrack is another beautifully warped element of Suspiria, with prog-rock band and native Italians Goblin providing an unsettling score which will fry your nerves and eat them with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
What makes Suspiria worth viewing in a modern context is that it stands apart from any mainstream horror movie which you might find at your local multiplex this year. While American slasher flicks have parodied themselves into the ground and zombie movies are often only good by accident, this meticulously constructed and bafflingly plotted flick will remind you that fear has many faces.
You can pick up Dario Argento’s masterwork on DVD, so get some friends together and show Rob Zombie where he can stick is awful remakes.