Thursday, 11 December 2014

Film Review - Suspiria (1977)

Fig.1 Suspiria (1977) Movie Poster

Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) is a wonderfully beautiful, but horrific Italian horror film. It's spooky supernatural elements are well matched by it's heart pounding soundtrack and horribly colourful lighting. Alan Jones mentions in his review for Radio Times how brilliant the colour, lighting and soundtrack in the film are by calling it "A stunning combination of menacing Grand Guignol atmosphere, dazzling colours, gory violence, lush d├ęcor and pounding soundtrack." - (Jones, 2013). The film is a piece of art. It has colour splashed all over it and that is what makes the film that much more terrifying.

Fig.2 Exterior of the Dance Academy

What may at first seem like a usual top dance academy in Freiburg, Germany, we go on to discover that there is more than meets the eye, and with it's slightly disturbing and extremely gruesome introduction we are already wondering how and why these events have occurred. Suspiria's brilliantly cheap special effects are effectively used by Argento. One minute, it would be very unrealistic and then in an instant becomes very realistic. This is very frightening as when you first see it, you almost want to laugh and then all of a sudden you are left with your eyes wide open and your jaw as close to the floor as possible. The film's soundtrack is brilliant. It has supernatural elements that accompany an almost iconic horror film sound. With it's slow then fast use of drums and other instruments, it truly gets the heart pumping and you know something is about to happen, and then when it does it would happen in such a way that is was unexpected.

Fig.3 Corridor in the Dance Academy

Lighting is used wonderfully in the film. The lamps on the wall throw their light on the bright red walls, and would make going through the most normal of corridors a struggle as it looks so intimidating (See Fig.3). The academy itself is covered in "The Shining"-esc patterns with a lot more red, especially on the outside (See Fig.2). As the setting is a dance academy, the colour red is a strange choice, if this it was the real world. The terribly bright colours make the academy look so daunting and you have to wonder why people would choice to live there. At night, it is incredibly dark, and so the only light they have is red. There are several scenes where the main character, in particular, walks through red light and it makes it look like she is covered in blood. This is a chilling sight and makes it very clear that the academy is not safe, and there is something mysterious about it.

Fig.4 Suzy, played by Jessica Harper

Suspiria is an incredibly stylised film. It's unique use of colour and light is a welcomed difference to the standard horror film. The film is a piece of art. Anthony Lawrie also considers the link between art and horror in the film by saying it is " The ultimate combination of art and horror...." - (Lawrie, 2014). Although the story may not make too much sense, primarily due to it's involvement in the supernatural world, the film is a sight to behold. James Hoberman touched on that in his review by calling it "A movie that makes sense only to the eye" - (Hoberman, 2009). The lighting and soundtrack build so much tension that you know something terrible is about to happen, and that demonstrates Argento's and the film's lead production designer, Giuseppe Bassan's, genius vision.

Illustration List:
Fig.1 Suspiria (1977) Movie Poster - (Accessed 10/12/2014)

Fig.2 Exterior of the Dance Academy - (Accessed 10/12/2014)

Fig.3 Corridor in the Dance Academy - (Accessed 10/12/2014)

Fig.4 Suzy, played by Jessica Harper - (Accessed 10/12/2014)

Hoberman, John (2009) - Supiria Shock: Two Runs in Two Weeks 
-  - (Accessed 10/12/2014)

Jones, Alan (2012) - Suspiria - (Accessed 10/12/2014)

Lawrie, John (2014) - Suspiria - - (Accessed 10/12/2014)

1 comment: