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Suspiria (1977)

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  • Suspiria (1977)

    The film stars Jessica Harper as an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany but later realizes, amidst a series of murders, that the academy is a front for something far more sinister and supernatural. The film also features Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Alida Valli, Udo Kier, and, in her final film role, Joan Bennett.

    Anytime someone gets into the horror genre, they eventually inquire about European horror recommendations and are almost always given Suspiria as a response. There's good reason for that. It's so unlike anything else stateside and I say that for better or worse. It's vivid colors, dreamlike narrative, strange cinematography that gives a storybook visual, pulsating soundtrack, and bizarre dialogue complimented with equally peculiar acting presents an apex as to what Italian horror, at least in it's "golden age", offers. Many Italian films from that time exhibit some of these qualities, but Suspiria takes whatever they have and cranks the dial to eleven with the exception of dialogue as Burial Ground may be the king of outlandish dialogue.

    I remember at the old-old board (we're talking back in 2000), I played the role of a horror movie watcher needing to expand his horizons. At that point, I had spent most of my time watching slasher films with an occasional oddity thrown in like 1981's The Evil Dead. I was getting bored of slashers, however, and sought the wisdom of others which pointed me in the direction of Euro-horror. You would think that's where Suspiria comes in, but like I mentioned earlier, it's almost always given as a suggestion. I was recommended The Beyond and Zombie instead. Remember, this was in 2000 and I think those two films had recent DVD releases while Suspiria did not. I think it got a release in 2001, but I'm not an expert on its release history so perhaps I'm wrong. As much as I enjoy The Beyond today, neither it or Zombie did much for me at the time. Even now, I don't care for Zombie but that's for a different topic. Finding neither to my liking, I steered away from Euro-horror for nearly half a decade. It makes me wonder how I would have reacted to Suspiria at the time. As much as Argento's film is an assault on the senses, it's narrative is rather flimsy at times and I probably would have reacted lukewarm to it much like I had to The Beyond. Then again, maybe not. By the time I saw it in 2012, I enjoyed it yet it didn't make nearly as impression on me as it may have years earlier. Still, there's nothing else exactly like it.

    Suspiria's 40th anniversary came recently and there have been several new transfers of the movie. The latest is the release by Synapse as observed in the video above. I had a chance to view this tonight and, man oh man, it is gorgeous! I've never seen it so vibrant and with such detail. It really is a visual trip. More surprising is the 4.0 track Synapse unearthed. I'm not one to gush over an audio experience, but this one of the most immersive tracks I've ever heard in a horror film. There is so much dialogue in the background and little whispers that seem to float around the room (at least, if you have a good setup like my friend does) that adds to the paranoia of the supernatural craziness occurring onscreen. It's really something that everyone should get to experience. After viewing the movie in this incarnation, I have to admit I had a blast with it. In fact, I realized I've enjoyed the film more with each viewing since 2012. Strangely enough, I find more and more to like about The Beyond each time I watch it.

    Having said that, let's open this topic up to a discussion of one cinema's most surreal horror experiences.
    People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."

  • #2
    I have the Synapse Blu on order. Judging by those screen caps, I won’t be disappointed.
    I, too, get more out of this movie (as well as The Beyond) with each viewing. When I first saw it on video in the mid nineties (pan and scan), all I really cared about was the gore. It was hard to get into the cinematography when the frame’s all chopped up. Seeing it on DVD in the early 2000’s in widescreen was a revelation. There really isn’t another movie like it, visually.
    Interestingly enough, my three favourite Argento films are Opera, Phenomena (I still watch the 82 min Creepers cut sometimes), and Deep Red. Suspiria would probably be fourth, but I watch it more than any of the others.


    • #3
      What you mentioned about caring only for the gore on your first viewing, I think that's why I was recommended The Beyond and Zombie back around 2000 as my first steps into the world of Italian horror. The problem was that I really didn't care about the gore. >_<

      So for my Argento confession: I haven't seen much of his work post- Inferno. Heck, I only watched Inferno for the first time last year. I need to give it another look as I remember being conflicted on it. I have the Synapse release of Tenebre, but haven't seen it. Looking at my giallo pile, I see that I have Deep Red unwatched as well. I have seen Bird with the Crystal Plumage which was a good surprise. I enjoyed it so much I ditched that VCI release and picked up the Arrow version. I think I got into Argento late enough that I don't feel compelled to immediately consume his filmography. Yet slowly but surely I'm getting to it especially with new transfers of his films being created.

      I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Synapse release of Suspiria. If you like what you've seen in screencaps and the trailer, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
      People hyping up latest comic book movie to be the GOAT and I'm like "psshh, you guys must not have seen Bigfoot rip off a man's dick before in 1980's Night of the Demon."