Saturday, November 6, 2010
I've seen a great many horror films in my life and I can count on one hand how many have actually given me a serious case of the creeps. There is a reason Suspiria is as vaunted as it is. Take the opening sequence...it scared the hell out of me. A young American woman arrives in Munich, Germany to attend a prestigious ballet school. She's walking out of the airport, toward a set of automatic doors. There's a thunderstorm raging outside. She watches as two other travelers pass through the doors into the malestrom, her eyes wide with trepidation. What's so spooky about that, you ask? Nothing at all. That's the point. The camera angles? The acting? I know part, if not most of the chills can be attributed to the music...and I have to say, this was the most crazy ass, scary as hell music I've ever heard. I think that's what probably got me. As the movie progressed and this music would kick in, I knew I was in for something insane and intense. (I just shivered again thinking about it.)
I jumped the gun a little by explaining the spookiness. The opening sequence wasn't just the airport. It kept up for a solid 11 minutes. Now that doesn't sound very long, but think of another horror film where you've been on the edge of your seat or squirming in your seat or hiding your face in your hands while a scene plays out on the screen. The only other movie I can think of that comes close is The Exorcist and the climax scene in Reagan's bedroom. So what happens in those 11 minutes? I'll make it quick: the American girl, Suzy Bannion played by Jessica Harper, grabs a cab, gets to the ballet shcool in the middle of the night just as a terrified girl is running out; Suzy buzzes the intercom but is told to go away; we then follow the terrified girl as she reaches a friend's apartment; she's in the bathroom drying off (thunderstorm, remember) when hands break through one window and pulls her through another (you won't believe how this is done); she's taken atop a huge stained glass window above the building's lobby, stabbed graphically, an electrical cord wrapped around her neck, then she breaks through the stained glass and falls; the cord goes taught and she's dangling there all dead and bloody...and her friend who had been running around screaming for help is lying underneath her, impaled. And this is the appetizer.
You already know this, of course, but the ballet school's staff are a coven of witches and it's up to Suzy to learn their secret and stop them. She manages it, although not before we're treated to a few more creative deaths (the room full of concertina razor wire bothered me a lot). When you read about Suspiria, most folks talk about the use of color (this was the last film made using Technicolor) which is a valid point because it is eyepopping, if not surreal, and only adds to the creepiness. One problem with the color, though...the blood looks like nothing more than red paint. This may have been by design, Argento simply going for a brighter hue of gore, but it doesn't take away from the overall impact.
Another thing I liked about it is that it doesn't bother with a subplot, there's no romantic crap to wade through. Well, there is Mark, a fellow dancer who may have a crush on her, but that goes nowhere. One interesting bit from a fashion standpoint...watch for Mark wearing a tight pair of jeans. Now, I've heard people talk about "camel toe" before, but I never really understood it. I do now. I'd be surprised if the guy ever had kids.
So Suspira...I'm not going to do a normal "breakdown" since the film's too well known. For the uninitiated, I will say that while this is considered an Italian film, the dialogue is all English (not dubbed either) so you have no excuse. If you want to be creeped out and freaked out, or just have the living crap scared out of you, here's your movie.
Now I have to wonder...what else have I been missing? If you have suggestions, please leave a comment.
Posted by Nate Dean at 11:46 PM