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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Suspiria’ (1977)

I’m required by Horror Critic Law to like this movie…

It’s like a right of god damn passage for a horror critic to review this movie, and since the remake, I knew at some point I’d have to bite the bullet and get it over with. I’d seen it a long damn time ago and remembered it fondly. Though, I never did understand how Suspiria became a critics choice for seriously every fucking critic in the horror industry. Don’t get me wrong, its good. Damn good. And for 1977, WAY the fuck ahead of it’s time.

But come on people, the reason why this movie got a remake is because it’s a fucking antique. It’s not exactly timeless. Younger generations are going to have a hard time appreciating it because so much about it is antiquated. The themes will seem a bit silly, the acting down right hammy, and everything else about the set, FX, and atmosphere, almost quaint.

However, for artsy little bitches like me, there is still a lot to appreciate about this movie and its easier to understand why these thing -which to a modern horror audience might seem silly- are actually brilliant. A lot of what I’m about to say is going to sound like I’m making excuses for this movie, but for the time it really was revolutionary and a lot of what modern horror brings to the table has Argento’s Suspiria as a foundation.

Importantly, you’r likely going to have to watch this movie dubbed, as I’m not sure if it’s possible to get a copy in Italian. I don’t know if it was a translation issue, but the dialog does seem unnatural and the dubbing can make several scenes seem awkward. However, you’ll find that this doesn’t detract from the movie. It even adds to the atmosphere. Much as that may sound strange, the movie itself is like an acid endued fever dream, and the disembodied voices of the actresses only adds to it.

The emoting will also seem over the top, indeed, almost going ‘Full Cage’ from time to time. However, that was the classical acting style of the time. Movie acting was a bit more like theater acting and in Italy, it would have been even more so. But as I mentioned about the dialog, the ‘Cagey’ acting makes the movie more surreal.

That brings us to the madness itself. The lighting, the sets, and the score, are all brilliantly and painstakingly designed to be unnerving. You may note, that the lighting is very similar to the movie Mandy. Indeed, a lot of the movement of each scene is very similar to Mandy. It’s downright psychedelic. Suspiria is trying to get into your head and activate certain sensations to make you uncomfortable. In a sense, it’s trying to make you trip, and I believe it’s somewhat successful, at least for me.

There’s more too it than that. Much like The Lighthouse, every scene is purposeful, like a living work of art, and designed to hide hidden meanings like Easter eggs. This would be several years before Stanley Kubrick would attempt the same thing with The Shining. Indeed, the two movies had very similar feel and style, proving Argento was far ahead of his time considering how revolutionary Kubrick was.

Sure a lot of the practical FX are going to seem charmingly armature, and in a sense, they were, but in Italy in 1977, this is what they had to work with. For what it was, it was masterfully implemented.

This is required viewing for true Horror Heads, only because this is a part of their history and they should, at the very least, understand how we got to where we are today. But believe it or not, a lot of general adult audiences are going to, at the very least, find this movie interesting. Most will have a firms understanding that old movies have a sort of feel that they can appreciate, and the style might even feel contemporary in some respects.

I don’t think it’s necessary to spoil this film. It’s designed like a murder mystery involving the Supernatural. So, if you haven’t seen it and are curious, I won’t ruin it for you. If you have seen it, your like me and have your own opinions on it.

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