Many of you may know that George A. Romero’s “…Of The Dead” series of movies are my favorites. Not just my favorite horror films, but of all movie genres. Many of you may not know however, that Romero worked quite a bit with Dario Argento, an Italian movie writer/director/producer, who made/worked on such wonderful films like Opera, Once Upon a Time in the West, and of course the two Masters of Horror shorts Jenifer and Pelts. But one of Argento’s earlier directorial works is Suspiria, a horror film about witches at a prestigious ballet school.
Suspiria starts off fairly strong. Good music plays through the credits, then a voice explains the opening plot (remember, ‘70s movie)… then you see a girl leaving an airport to flag down a taxi, and the cinematography masterwork begins. This is one of the finest areas of the movie actually. The camera work is just astonishing throughout, it’s not all fancy (Inception) nonsense, but rather simple yet effective beauty. Argento uses angles and a focus on simple actions (an automatic door’s mechanism opening and closing) to break the flow of movement in a way that actually seems to enhance it. It’s quite impressive, and really adds to the film rather than distracts from it, unlike poorer attempts in other films.
So the movie develops, and you see the girl arrive at her new ballet school. You see a girl get murdered. You see strange things happening! And as all this happens you are drawn in by the soundtrack quite nicely. At times I found myself paying less attention to the screen and more to my ears. The soundtrack of this movie, which was written and performed by Goblin, flows phenomenally, really drawing you in at the right times, setting the mood perfectly. Sadly, the dubbing does not. We were watching the English dubbed version, and I hate to say they did a really poor job with the movie. I need to acquire a subtitled copy. But besides that, the sound editing is amazing and, overall, of extremely high quality. Onward!
One thing I do have say about this movie is that some of the plot points are extraordinarily weak. Primarily the main “twist.” The entire witches idea comes out of nowhere, and could have been easily replaced with any sort of “horror” ideal, like demons, vampires, etc. It was not a well thought out plot point, but it worked. Although, the interpretation of witchcraft is so off base and misinforming that it’s almost offensive… but it was the ’70s. It just seems like they had this great idea for creepy things happening around this school… but thought up a reason for those things to be happening at the last second. An afterthought.
Also, the room full of razor wire? Really? Where did that come from? Why would that even be in there!? Silliness…
Throughout the film we started noticing certain things. “Why are they using watered-down paint for blood?” Or… “Wow, the movement in the pool scene was very graceful, well in keeping with the ‘dancer’ motif.” Both good and negative. Though we really developed a dislike of the dubbing. The English dialogue does not flow well in this movie… as I mentioned. At parts it makes the movie almost unbearable. So trust me, if you’re going to watch it try to find the subtitled version. But enough repeating… there are certain points of this film that really do stick out, both good and bad. The pool scene, the razor wire scene, the fact that every female basically has the exact same hair type and style… The fact that a young Udo Kier is playing a nice, intelligent psychiatrist (weird!)… Not so much distractions from the movie, but amusing things that we noticed while watching. Or things that add an entirely new level of excellence. It really seems that Argento’s success in this film is entirely in the technical work, leaving a little to be desired on the creative side. Although it’s hard to tell if the actors were good or not… DAMN ENGLISH DUBBING!
Overall, I personally really enjoyed this movie, as an example of excellent storytelling and cinematography in ’70s film. I wish I had the subtitled version, but things being what they were, it’s a good movie. Just keep in mind that its over 30 years old… Also, if you’re not into good horror, but more the slasher-Scream/Jason type, you may not enjoy it. It’s more of a subtle horror.