Friday, August 19, 2011

One of Argento's best still prompts the question, "That's it?"

Suspiria (1977)
Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, and Joan Bennett
Director: Dario Argento
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Suzy Banyon (Harper) comes to study at a prestigious German dance academy, but instead becomes drawn into the murderous and deadly web of secrets exists within its walls. Is there a killer on the loose in the school, or is it the spirit of its founder--a reported witch--who has returned from the depths of Hell?

When "Suspiria" was over, I mused out loud, "Was that it?"

The film is praised by critics and viewers as being Argento's best, but I think "Deep Red" is a far superior film. The only things "Suspiria" has going for it are some fantastic sets, some interesting lighting, a neat theme by Goblin, and the attractive Jessica Harper's deer-in-the-headlights performance.

Everything else is "Suspira" is sorely lacking. The structure of the dance classes shown are odd and unrealistic, the acting is mostly wooden, and the script is so weak so as to feel like an excuse to simply display the three set-piece murder scenes. To make matters worse, what story their is only succeeds due to Stupid Character Syndrome, except here it's the villains that engage in such mindless stupidity that one wonders how they managed to the school's secrets for as long as they did.

There are countless really cool cinematic moments in the film (prime among them are Suzy's trip through the rainstorm at the beginning of the film, the climactic moments of the first murder, the sequence in the open plaza, the entire sequence of Sara's flight through the school, and Suzy's exploration during the film's climax), but the story that should be motivating all these scenes is so ill defined and poorly explained that it makes an already weak climax feel rushed and as if the movie ends before we're even given one-quarter of the story.

Impressive visually, but severely lacking in the story department, "Suspiria" isn't as good as its repuation might lead you to believe. I think it's worth seeing if your interested in seeing a technically well-done film, but you can spend your time better if you're just interested in watching a creep-fest.


  1. The first few minutes are nerve-wracking, due in large part to Goblin's score. After that, not so much.

  2. The score for this one is perhaps the best Goblin did. It's a toss-up between this one and "Dawn of the Dead."

  3. Although I think I agree that Deep Red is superior, I still find Suspiria to be a pretty terrific movie. I think it's one of those dream/nightmare-like movies that works for me in that context very well. But at least I know if you and I are in a used movie store and see Suspiria Blu-Ray Special Edition on the bargain shelf, I won't have to wrassle you for it!