Film Review - Suspiria (1977)

figure 1. Suspiria film poster

Suspiria (1977)
Combining suspicion and hysteria together with a chilling title track you arrive at the 1977 film, Suspiria directed by Dario Argento. Harsh reds, blues and greens flood relentlessly throughout and as Suzy Bannion arrives at the coveted dance academy in Germany it becomes all too clear that Suspiria has layers underneath it that are more than a simple murderer. “Witch, witch….” Whispers from the title track once again as you are slowly panned throughout a highly contrasted hall. This continues, and as such the magnificent set design shows more and more. Suspiria challenges an expectation of high realism with the “obvious artificiality, announcing that what they were seeing made no pretence to verisimilitude. “ (Biodrowski, 2008) It doesn’t try to be realistic and holds no rules or laws underneath over its shoulders to insinuate that it is. In this way, Dario Argento had been extremely free to weld Suspiria’s path of the Occult without any questions asked.

figure. 2 Peg being stabbed.

Suspiria is extremely honest in it’s approach. We know there will be murder, blood and guts but contained to only a short scene. The screaming and torture comes from the unknown and it is not till the last half of the film that we begin to understand that what the ballet dancers of Freiburg’s famous dance academy are dealing with is not a natural occurrence. Maggots start to fall from the ceilings but only in the girl’s dorms, people go missing but the teachers only bat an eyelid..

The age-old question of “Do teachers actually go home after school?” arises but with a rather sinister ulterior approach to it. Even though we are only ever introduced completely to a few of the ballet dancers Suspiria starts to turn into more of a film of mystery rather than a horror. The suspense of not knowing who’s next.

An odd sense of alientation comes from Suspiria due to the violent colour choices yet another element also arises in creating the outerwordly feeling that we get from this familiar- yet completely off- German setting. “The plot, as transparent as the pane of glass that slices up the movie's first victim, is intentionally ridiculous” (Maslin, 1977) … and ridiculous it is. There is not much to think about whilst watching Suspiria. It gives you the answers and makes you follow the stark red light down the well-lit and winding halls of the dance academy. Dario Argento throws in psychology and science known to favour atheist-views; alongside witchcraft, the occult and black-magic. Fairy tales of another world. The melodramatic acting sets the 1977 film into a creep-induced pantomime and creates alienation further into dismay. Though, it is only natural coming from Argento who later goes onto create a recreate Phantom of the Opera.

figure.3 Lavish architecture symmetrical-ness!

Perhaps Suspiria could work in CG. – But its’ questionable as to if it would lose the off-putting sense of knowing a realistic setting mixed with the occult and not always one-hundred percent seeing what is around the corner, or behind a door as the light turns on…

Goblin’s musical arrangement, Argento’s use of colour, combined with spontaneously dramatic (and a little flamboyant) acting takes Suspiria’s Germany into a world of it’s own. We are so used to seeing the stark white pillars and floors of today’s Germany that the dyes of red, blue and green are humbly welcomed. Strong art choices make for Suspiria being unforgettable for it’s grand architecture that had remained one building tall, the prestigious dance academy of Freiburg. “his film's most powerful moments have a way of making one think about open-heart surgery.” (Maslin, 1977) Just like an educational medical video; Argento brings great honestly and transparency to his films. Especially in the more gore-intensive scenes. The title track comparable to that of The Shining (1980) is extremely memorable and the repetitive nature of it throughout guides you and constantly reminds you that this film is a thrilling mix of suspicion and hysteria as the occult-ridden witches of the notorious dance academy hunt everyone down, including Suzy.

figure. 4 Suzy eavesdropping on the coven of the dance academy.


My review ended up being exactly 666 words of which I did not intent to happen.
brb hiding underground

Illustration List:

Argento, D. (1977). Film Poster. [image] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2014].

Argento, D. (1977). Film Still 1. [image] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2014].

Argento, D. (1977). Film Still 2. [image] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2014].

Argento, D. (1977). Film Still 3. [image] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2014].


Biodrowski, S. (2008). Suspiria (1977) – A Nostalgia Review | Cinefantastique Online. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2014].

Maslin, J. (1977). Movie Review - Suspiria - 'Suspiria,' a Specialty Movie, Drips With Gore - [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2014].

MASLIN, J. (1977). Movie Review - Suspiria - 'Suspiria,' a Specialty Movie, Drips With Gore - [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2014].

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha! Spooky - I would have written another sentence, just to up the word count a bit !!

    Very nice, once again....don't forget to italicise the film name though!