October Countdown: Suspiria (1978)

Our October Countdown of Halloween Horrors old and new, famous and forgotten, continues with:

September 30: Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (JD)

October 6: Suspiria (Alex)
October 7: The Seventh Victim (JD)

October 13: Friday the 13th-a “Make Me Watch It” Podcast (Blaine)
October 14: Hereditary (JD)

October 20: Hausu (Alex)
October 21: Eye of the Devil (JD)

October 27: A Quiet Place (JD)
October 28: Alone in the Dark (JD)

October 31: Halloween 2018 (JD)
Return of the Living Dead (JD)

We continue with a film that introduced Dario Argento to fans of horror outside of fans of Giallo, and which is getting a remake due to be released this November.

(Note: The trailer for the remaster and the original US theatrical trailer are embedded at the bottom of the review – they do contain some NSFW imagery for violence).

Title: Suspiria

Cast and Crew

Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion
Stefania Casini as Sara
Flavio Bucci as Daniel
Miguel Bosé as Mark (as Miguel Bosè)
Barbara Magnolfi as Olga
Susanna Javicoli as Sonia
Eva Axén as Pat Hingle
Rudolf Schündler as Prof. Milius
Udo Kier as Dr. Frank Mandel
Alida Valli as Miss Tanner
Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc

Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi
Inspired by a book by Thomas De Quincey
Music by Goblin

The Premise

Suzy Bannion has come from New York to Freiburg, Germany to attend the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy. When she arrives on a dark and rainy night, a voice on the intercom warns her to run away, and then one of the students, in turn, flees from the academy. That student is in turn brutally murdered that night. After arriving at the academy the next day, Suzy starts trying to investigate the dark and occult mystery of the school.

High Points

Pretty much any night scene in this show is wonderfully done.  It is not that the scenes during the day are bad by any means, it’s that the scenes at night are far more intense, from the lightning to the use of color to the score.

Low Points

The film operates a lot on dream logic. This was not particularly a problem for me, but if you’re not able to buy into the more dreamlike elements of the film then you may end up bouncing off the movie hard.

The Scores

Originality: This is a wholly original work by Argento and Nicolodi – borrowing only a very basic concept from Thomas De Quincey (the Three Mothers – and they come up more in the sequels), and Argento’s more familiar territory of Giallo is explored briefly at the beginning, before exploring new territory later in the film. 5/6

Effects: The majority of the effects in the film are gore effects, and they’re generally solid if (with a few exceptions) basic. 4/6

Acting: Like with other Italian films of this period (like the Man with No Name trilogy), the performances of the actors were shot in their native language and then overdubbed into the film’s release language. This makes the performances something of a mixed bag. 4/6

Production: Here is where the film truly shines. The synergy of the cinematography, set design, and the score by Goblin all combine perfectly to create a pronounced sense of dread, and to heighten the film’s dream (or nightmare) like atmosphere. 6/6

Story: The story is somewhat basic, thriving more on the emotional content instead of narrative twists and turns (for example, it’s pretty clear the faculty of the school are up to something – and are certainly trying to gaslight Suzy) – though those certainly are there. 4/6

Emotional Response: The film does a tremendous job of putting the viewer on edge. 5/6

Overall: This is probably the best film Dario Argento ever made – even more than The Bird With The Crystal Plumage or Don’t Torture a Duckling – and also possibly one of the best horror films to come out of Italy. 6/6

In total, Suspiria gets 34 out of 42.

6 replies on “October Countdown: Suspiria (1978)”

  1. And, of course, some sort of remake is due out soon. They’re calling it an “homage” and suggesting it won’t be a literal remake.

    That may be a good thing, or not.

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