21 March 2011

Fin's Review: Suspiria

This film is very weird and to a large extent makes little sense - in this instance, I mean both as a compliment. Apart from some modern European horror films such as [REC] and The Orphanage, we haven't delved into any of the classic schools of European horror, until now. It was therefore an apt time for Ally to pick Suspiria, perhaps the best film to come out of the Italian Giallo movement of the 70s and early 80s.

The Giallo horror movement is the most influential horror movement to have developed outside the US and directors such as Sergio Martino, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and Mario Brava produced some of the most stylish and enigmatic horror films ever made. Suspiria was released in 1977 and while the majority of the world were being captivated by a film set along time ago in a galaxy far far away, horror fans - at least those lucky enough to see it - were raving about a beautiful, bizarre and terrifying horror experience.

Argento created a truly unique vision and his tale of a coven of witches set in an elite ballet school would go on to be not just one of the best films to come out of the Italian Giallo school but one of the most influential of any 70s horror film. Directors such as John Carpenter and Wes Craven have referenced Giallo, and Suspiria in particular, as big influences on their work. This film is a very different experience and those accustomed to more obvious horror fare may find its tone and style too bizarre. If you allow yourself to get caught up in plot and plausibility you may be disappointed, but allow yourself to be drawn into the world that Argento is creating and you will enjoy a unique and startling experience.

Suspiria occupies the middle ground between art house and horror and excels on both counts. This film is both beautifully shot and truly scary. It is fascinating to watch; the strange sets, peculiar colours and crazy camera angles are all done in such a classy and skillful way that it is hard to look away.

One of the best compliments I can pay this film is that it is very hard to find anything to compare it with and this is particularly true for the soundtrack. The soundtrack was created by an Italian prog rock band called Goblin and despite the fact I would probably rather chop my own ears off than listen to one of their studio albums their music is perfect for the film. The music is full of strange, disconnected noises with echoes of sounds that you think you can identify but can never be sure, adding to the real sense of dislocation and isolation both the main character and the viewer are feeling.

I watched this film last Thursday and I would struggle to explain the strange symbols and imagery adopted by Argento, but this makes me like the film even more. Argento doesn't feel the need to spoon feed the viewer either meaning or emotion, rather giving the audience the respect to try and work it out on their own and while this may come as a shock to many people used to modern Hollywood slop, it provides a rich and thought-provoking experience. The influential horror blog Esplatter has described Suspiria as, "one of the most important horror films ever made" and, although this may be a slight exaggeration, it is without doubt a fresh, absorbing and truly unique film and one any self-respecting horror fan should watch.

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