I was in Fopp recently, listening to the most insane and eccentric piece of music I ever had the pleasure of turning around to the employees to say “what the hell is this? I love it!” To which I was presented a Dario Argento Soundtrack CD – a compilation of the horror masters seminal works and their undeniably brilliant scores. I am going to be completely honest now: while I had heard of Argento, his movies were a dark side of cinema I had yet to plunge into. As the music enveloped me in this tiny story, crazed and deliriously excellent, I just knew I had to expand my Argento horizons. Starting with the delectable and stunning Suspiria, which luckily had a 4K restoration this year.
Starring Phantom of the Paradise’s Jessica Harper, Suspiria revolves around a ballet school out in the woods of isolated Germany. Susy is a promising dancer, invited from America to conduct her training underneath the schools tutelage. However, when she gets there in the middle of a rainy night, she sees a fellow student running away cryptically from the school. That student winds up dead, even after finding solace, and soon tensions surrounding the institution start to rise. Especially when Susy regularly starts to become ill and deaths start becoming a more frequent occurrence. Could there be witches at this prestigious dance school?
If you want to create an effective horror film then look no further than Argento’s work. Even just Suspiria, it holds more haunting weight than most horror movies out there in a modern era. Because Argento knows how to utilize suspense and imagery in a masterful way. Drenching the film with this unnerving use of vibrant colours, profound and surreal as well as evocative and enthralling, Argento beautifully drags you into this horror story. Then lavishes you with blood and gore. Unafraid to give us some quite horrific deaths, Argento invokes chills with the grim (and brightly doused) deaths in ultra-violent and ultra violet well. He also implements outstanding artistic camera shots and these grand glossed elements that work with the bleak undertones adding to the simple if confused plot (that, rather than hamper the final product, helps set an atmosphere alongside the girls at this school).
With this redolent tone, adding the tension with rather poignant and rightly perplexed characters who toil with the issues going on around, (with Harper shining here). It is really pulled together with Goblin’s undeniably perfect score. Italian Prog Rock masters just enthuse another level of horror to the film as the score wraps along the frights. Random wails of “Witch” with this electrical guitar vein like lightening sending shock of chills down your spine. This level of surrealism in the music is tinged with a hammering heart beat mirroring the panic of our centric heroines. Itwill stick with you, unnervingly.
There are many reasons why Suspiria is one of the first films poised on critic’s lips when you talk about scary and daring films. Nearly forty years after first release, this horror movie is a stunning bit of enhanced aesthetics and deep drama. This is colourful yet damning, youthful yet archaic and simple but complex.
You may not like school, but at least you aren’t at an Argento School.
Suspiria is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!