Suspiria ★★★★

The Road To Halloween - Eliminating The Horror 'Classics'

The next director that I was going to cover in my side-projects of completing whole filmographies of filmmakers was going to be John Carpenter. Sorry John, you're going to have to wait your turn. Need. More. Argento!

You know, one thing just struck me about Deep Red and Suspiria - they both make sense. I'm forever harping on about the fact that Italian horror films rarely make any sense at all, even though I conceded in that review that I actually understand that it doesn't matter to the directors in question. Yet these two did have central stories that were very coherent.

Of course, with Suspiria you've not got just some random bloke watching someone getting stabbed and instead of shitting themselves and leaving the country they investigate the crime. This one steps away from the slasher genre (more or less), opts for something more supernatural (more or less) and as such it eliminates one really big piece of the story that doesn't make sense. More or less.

You do have the fact that most of the students in this film seem relatively unperturbed by the brutal murder of one of their schoolmates. But aside from that the story sticks together rather nicely, ties up the loose threads at the end and it is all quite logical in its own way. Hmm, maybe Argento does care about the story after all. Or maybe it was just a happy accident. Perhaps a bit of both.

No, Argento is clearly mostly in it for the style again. He's got Suspiria swimming in delirious colour and imagery from the get-go as the red light shines directly on the hands of Jessica Harper practically the moment she sets foot in Munich. The stop-start music (oh the music) as she strolls through the airport and then the fiery colour of the academy that she arrives at. Then the reds really start to roll in. Suspiria, you've got some red on you.

I love its usage here. Argento is a massive show-off who knows he's good and knows how to use film as a canvas. Red is his nerve-wracker - the colour he splashes on to the screen to make us worried. What does that mean? Does that mean she has blood on her hands? Is she going to be revealed as the killer? Why are those walls so dark red? What does that say about this place?

The use of the colour so fragrantly here also gives the impression of a film that's far more violent than it actually is. Suspiria has its violent scenes - more on those shortly. But the film is far from an endless orgy of brutality. Argento likes space between those scenes. He likes them to stand on their own as pieces of work - you could take the opening murder out of this film, repackage it as a short film and it would be one of the better short films you've ever seen.

It's unnerving though. You think you're seeing more than you actually are. When he delivers the shredding scenes of violence, he doesn't care that the blood looks fake and red paint-y. It looks gorgeous. It looks weird. It's another area of the canvas. He doesn't mind going to weird places to keep his film going, anyway. After all, the bat! An absolutely lunatic scene that should be utterly silly - and it's not because that little bastard looks like a total brute. Look at its teeth! Who created that thing?!

The violence here, again, is sharp and brutal. The stabbing in that opening scene isn't relentless. Argento is toying with us every bit as much as the murderer is toying with the girl. The barbed wire scene is quite simply amazing and distressing as well. He completely understands how these scenes are going to be most effective. They're not drawn out. The build-ups are where the tension should be. The pay-off should be short and shocking - and it always is in Suspiria.

And yes, of course, the music. "Play it loud!", said Jim Drew to me on Twitter today! I always play my films loud through my earphones but it would be such a waste if you didn't do the same here. The music is just relentless - it gets under your skin and it's intermixed with peculiar soundbites that seem to be saying something, except you're not sure what. Then it stops all of a sudden when Harper closes a door. It's intrusive and there so much of the time, not letting you settle. Spotify will be raided for it, don't you worry.

I didn't like Suspiria as much as Deep Red, but it was a close run thing. I think there are a couple of slower scenes that didn't grab the attention as such scenes did in Deep Red, perhaps because Harper isn't quite as interesting a character. She is perfectly fine here, and what a delight to see Joan Bennett here in a pivotal and beautifully judged role. Argento pulled off a blinder being able to cast her!

But I still slightly loved it. And I think a love affair with Dario Argento's films is more than just a blossoming one for me.

Steve G liked these reviews