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Suspiria (1977) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence
Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion
Stefania Casini as Sara
Flavio Bucci as Daniel
Miguel Bosé as Mark (dubbed in the English release by Gregory Snegoff)
Alida Valli as Miss Tanner
Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc
Udo Kier as Dr. Frank Mandel (dubbed by Frank von Kugelgen)
Barbara Magnolfi as Olga (dubbed by Carolyn De Fonseca)
Eva Axén as Pat Hingle
Director: Dario Argento

Suzy (Jessica Harper) travels to Germany to attend ballet school. When she arrives, late on a stormy night, no one lets her in, and she sees Pat (Eva Axén), another student, fleeing from the school. When Pat reaches her apartment, she is murdered. The next day, Suzy is admitted to her new school, but has a difficult time settling in. She hears noises, and often feels ill. As more people die, Suzy uncovers the terrifying secret history of the place.

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Months ago I watched Suspiria in preparation of the remake coming out later this year. Now in the month of Halloween, I decided to give my thoughts on it now. I had been hearing about Suspiria for the longest time, it had always been called one of the best horror movies of all time. I wasn’t even sure what the movie is, I know it was a horror movie from the 70s involving dancing and some very distinct colours but that’s it. Having seen it though, I can see why this movie is so beloved, with its visual style and look, some iconic scenes, so much great things are in this movie. Some aspects don’t work as well but the pros more than outweigh the cons.

You get the feeling that something is not right from the very beginning of the movie, and all the way to the end this movie really had my attention. I guess you could say that Suspiria is style over substance and you’d have a strong argument there, yet it actually works. Despite this, there is some exposition which can be a little too much at times but is a minor issue and didn’t bother me too much. Also, it is worth noting that originally the director wanted to use 12 year olds but the studio understandably didn’t agree to it to avoid controversy, so it was rewritten to be in their 20s. I bring this up because there are at times with some of the dialogue where it does feel a little childish and clearly some of the original dialogue still remain from earlier drafts. Horror movies don’t really affect me that much but I will say that Suspiria really did a great job at getting under my skin. Suspiria is just under an hour and 40 minutes long and it really works for me. It can feel drawn out at times and I can see why some would find it to really drag, but personally I was so caught up with the atmosphere and the mystery that I wasn’t really a problem for me.

There isn’t a ton of things to the characters really, especially when it comes to the people running the school, they particularly come across as being very one note. One thing that makes judging the acting really difficult is the fact that many of the actors are multi lingual and didn’t necessarily speak the same language, so a lot of dubbing was done (more on that later). It can also explain some of the disconnect with the actors with each other because it didn’t look like they knew what the other was saying (and that’s because a lot of the time that’s the case). Fortunately quite a lot of the movie is style over substance that you are able to forget about it for the most part. The acting isn’t really that great but I thought it was good enough for the movie. Jessica Harper was likable in her role of the lead character, the same went for her friend played by Stefania Casini.

Director Dario Argento’s work is a big part of why the movie works, he really creates such a fantastic atmosphere with the lighting, cinematography, music, pretty much everything. One of Suspiria’s highlights is the look of the movie, the cinematography by Luciano Tovoli is absolutely breathtaking. There are so many neon colours, red, blue, green, it is an absolute feast for the eyes, even if you aren’t super into horror movies but love watching movies with great colours and cinematography, Suspiria is kind of worth a watch. A lot of the time it doesn’t necessarily make sense as to why the colours are like that, but you can look past it. The visual effects are pretty dated and don’t really hold up well today. The music by Goblin is great and hypnotic, really adding to the tone and atmosphere of the movie. However I think it goes a little too loud at points, to the point where it gets distracting and overshadows the rest of the scene. The violence is graphic and stylised, really memorable, a lot of the practical effects are great. The editing doesn’t always work, like the transitions between songs are really jarring and sudden and cut off. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of dubbing, a lot of it is downright terrible but it’s fine if you don’t look closely at the actors’ lips.

Suspiria definitely lives up to all its praise of being one of the most iconic horror movies. It does have some dated aspects and some issues, but on the whole I think it’s a really solid horror thriller. As previously mentioned, Suspiria is having a remake which will release in about a month. I will admit I wasn’t really hyped for it (not because I don’t think the original can’t be touched, because it does show its age), all the polarising reactions are actually making me curious. As long as it tries being its own thing while staying true enough to the original that it can be justified being called a remake, I think it’ll be something unique.