Why You Should Watch: Suspiria (1977)

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From IMDb: An American newcomer to a prestigious German ballet academy comes to realize that the school is a front for something sinister amid a series of grisly murders.

I don’t know whether to encourage you to watch this alone or with friends, but I do absolutely encourage anyone interested in horror films to see it. Watch it when you are ready to get a little weird. Argento is a key director in horror, and this film captures a lot of what makes him great while also slapping on a layer of supernatural machinations that gives it a wide range of appeal no matter what subgenre of horror interests you.

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This could be you trying to understand why I suggested this movie!

I used to find a lot of horror films by browsing the horror sections in video stores. I remember browsing the VHS tapes, and seeing this exact one:

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I was instantly intrigued by the tagline “the only thing more terrifying than the last 10 minutes of this film at the first 90!” I had never heard of this movie or Dario Argento at that point.

I watched Suspiria for the first time on a sunny afternoon by myself. It was mostly weird and somewhat amusing, but I liked it. I wasn’t really scared of it save for a couple of unnerving scenes.

Then I got to those last 10 minutes.

Hell is behind that door! You’re going to meet death now… the LIVING DEAD!

Suspiria

When that door opens I jumped up, paused the movie, and walked outside to remind myself there was a world beyond that badly dubbed nightmare world of witches and the occult Argento had masterfully created. Needless to say I believe that tagline delivers.

I absolutely love Suspiria, and it would easily be in my top ten horror movies of all time. I love Suspiria so much my wedding flowers were blue irises in order to pay homage to Suspiria. Once my wife and I got free shots for me recognizing the bartender’s Suspiria shirt so if nothing else knowing this movie may score you free alcohol. It’s combination of giallo and supernatural elements set to a riveting score full of synth and whispered gibberish is powerfully distinct and hypnotizing. Although it will probably make you chuckle, there is a moment for EVERYONE, no matter what disturbs you, somewhere in this movie:

  • One of the most wild, violent death sequences you will ever see opens the film
  • There is a jump scare that still gets me
  • There is a moment when the overwhelming soundtrack fades to nothing just so you can focus on the sound of a killer inching closer and closer to unlocking the door between them and their next victim – while the victim tries desperately to get themselves up to a window to escape
  • The unnerving, wheezing breath of the headmistress just behind a curtain where the protagonists are. It is a chilling moment even though we aren’t really sure why it is so creepy at the time
  • Maggots. Enough said hopefully.

Three facts that I like to tell people when they are first going to watch this movie:

  • There is no undubbed version. The actors were all told just to speak their native languages whether that was English, Italian, or German so what you hear is truly what you get. I’m sure some would argue the sometimes terrible dubbing adds to the dreamlike sensation, but it will probably just make you a laugh a bit. Which is good because this movie has some seriously unnerving parts (TCM)
  • As originally scripted, Suspiria was to be populated with girls somewhere between 8 to 12 years old, but the studio (including Dario’s father) was like “no f*cking way are you putting little girls in this movie.” So Dario changed the ages but NOT the dialogue, resulting in bizarrely childlike encounters between grown women (TCM). But also just keep in mind when you watch this he planned to cast it with preteen girls.
  • There’s a scene where a character is attacked by a bat and you can definitely see the string holding it up at some points. I just need others to appreciate that as well.

Definitely check this movie out, and let me know what you think if you do!

A note about Suspiria (2018):

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I was very excited to get a remake of this movie. Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is described as a “cover” of the original movie, and the description fits. It is a photo negative of the original in many ways: it is drained of color, actually includes intricate dance scenes, and drops the dreamlike fairy tale for a bleak story grounded in historical events including notably a divided Berlin. It adds a rich narrative to the story, and I feel the original could benefit from that. In a way, I wish elements of both could be cut together. I think it is fascinating to watch them side by side to see such a different take on the same premise, but if choosing between the two there is absolutely no question you should watch the original.

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