Suspiria (1977, dir. Dario Argento)
It had been quite a while since I had watched this film, about fifteen years or so. This was a movie that really intrigued me as a kid, mainly because of the visual that I had seen, the body of a disemboweled woman hanging from the rafters of a building. I had read that it was about witches in a dance academy, but as a kid I couldn’t make the connection between the witches and the hanging woman. Years later, in the late 90s, I finally rented Suspiria on VHS, satisfying my curiosities about the movie. I wasn’t all that jazzed by it, probably because I was more into Star Wars and all things Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez to care.
Flash forward to this year when I finally get to see it again. The copy of the VHS I had viewed in ’98 or ’99 was considerably worn, and as a result the colors were bleached out. For some purists, that is the way to see horror – grimy and muted colors. But once I saw Suspiria recently, I saw this movie as a digitally remastered BluRay print, and I knew that I had seen it in all of its glory. I was meant to see it this way. Dario Argento films deserve the cleanest prints possible for viewing. That may be sacrilege for some purists, but I don’t care. This print was so crisp and vivid, the colors popping onscreen, creating a dreamscape of surreality that I can’t imagine another way of seeing this movie ever again.
And what this movie lacks in jump scares, as so many “horror fans” are eager for these days, Suspiria is long on what makes a horror movie truly effective for me, slowly built nuance, atmosphere, and a growing sense of dread. From the opening scene showing the protagonist arriving in Germany, the airport washed in highly saturated primary colors, deftly transitioning into the awkward cab ride to the dance academy, where we see a frantic young woman hauling ass out of the building. The color palate being set so early also sets the nightmarish tone for the rest of the movie, a movie tinged with odd occurrences and reality bending moments. The coloring of the film is one of the stars of the film, but it also augments all that happens on screen. The blood is an other-worldly thick, opaque red and nothing like the crimson, arterial red of real blood, but I like my blood in films to be over saturated as well.
I can’t believe that it took me this long to re-discover and appreciate this film. If you have the chance, try watching a remastered version, preferably on Blu, but honestly, any version of this film is a great version.
P.S. – The music score by Goblin – my nightmares.