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Overall Rating
3.96

Awesome59.34%
Worth A Look: 9.89%
Just Average: 8.79%
Pretty Crappy: 10.99%
Sucks: 10.99%

4 reviews, 67 user ratings


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Suspiria (1978)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Strange brew."
5 stars

A little over an hour into the classic fever dream 'Suspiria,' a killer comes after a frightened young woman we’ve grown to like, intending to dull his straight razor on her. She locks herself in a room, and the razor slides through the door opening and jiggles the latch.

Jiggle, jiggle, for quite some time, as she stares at the blade with dread. We can see that the killer could easily flip the latch up with the razor, but that wouldn’t serve the purpose of the scene, which is twofold. The plot-centered purpose is simply to scare the woman into fleeing through a window into another room, where an even uglier surprise is in store. The second purpose is purely aesthetic — the film’s cowriter and director, Dario Argento, loves to draw out the suspense for its own cruel sake. We stare as if hypnotized as the woman backs away, backs away, at a crawl, futilely. Whether she moves fast or slow, death is still coming for her, as another character says in a different context later on.

Suspiria, whose modern remake arrives in American theaters next month, is probably Argento’s masterpiece. The first in his Three Mothers trilogy — followed by 1980’s Inferno and 2007’s Mother of Tears — it seems to encompass everything he holds dear: art, music, architecture, elaborate death sequences. It’s a death ballet, really, with various crescendos that function as nightmare logic. I mean, when we’re talking about a drizzle of maggots falling on unsuspecting young women, the movie can try to explain it away as the headmistress (Joan Bennett) does, but Suspiria is no left-brain experience. I see, for instance, that I’ve made it some 300 words into this piece without mentioning that the movie takes place at a ballet academy, and that the star, the mildly agreeable Jessica Harper, is the school’s new American student Suzy Bannion. Thinking back on Suspiria yields sense memories, electronic haunted-house sounds, stylish and outré brutality. It’s possible to forget Harper is even in it, but it’s not possible to forget the opening salvo of operatic violence, perhaps the only gory slasher kill that also wreaks collateral damage.

Argento throws in maybe two quick scenes of dance practice, but ballet isn’t really what he’s interested in. He sets the movie in a ballet academy because it has dozens of comely young actresses to terrorize (and is run by older women who may or may not be witches). It’s simplistic to call Argento a misogynist based on the baroque ways women are killed in his work. I believe him when he says he’s trying to show how horrible violence against women is (despite his disconcerting habit of “playing” the killer’s hands in his movies). I also think the murder scenes, the spikes in the heartbeat, can’t help being beautiful and exciting. The extremely loud and almost cartoonishly ominous score by Goblin (Dawn of the Dead) and the hyper-rich, Disney-inspired color scheme by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli turn the violence into myth, fairy-tale, illustrations in some fiendish old leatherbound book of stories.

Argento is an artist and his art, like Hitchcock and Peckinpah, is the shock of sudden death, the blood and guts of mortality. Suspiria runs on spooky virtuosity that both confounds sense and forges its own internal sense. There’s a room at the academy that’s filled with barbed wire for some reason — sure, why not. I imagine Suspiria is also not the kind of movie that plays well with snarky modern audiences; there are just too many weird infelicities you have to agree to overlook, like the usual uncanny-valley Italian dubbing — the worst example being Udo Kier, dubbed in the U.S. release with an American accent, even though Kier is a German actor in a film set in Germany.

The apocalyptic finale makes about as much sense as anything else; it feels right, though. The movie plays best when it comes off like a little kid telling a scary story, skipping around, giving you over-the-top gross-outs. It’s less convincing in scenes where Harper goes around like a detective trying to get to the bottom of the strangeness. She won’t, because the strangeness of 'Suspiria' is bottomless.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1092&reviewer=416
originally posted: 10/09/18 17:23:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/12/18 the giver of the law Perhaps the most ludicrously over-rated movie in the entire 129 year history of film-making 1 stars
9/12/17 morris campbell great style & atmosphere eerie as well 4 stars
2/06/17 Louise Highly stylised, hypnotic and hugely enjoyable! Saw it 1st time on the big screen, wow! 5 stars
1/12/17 rk sorry, this movie sucks. acting lighting & plot crap 1 stars
3/09/16 Langano Masterpiece my ass. 2 stars
4/20/15 Zeego123 One of the best nightmare-movies of all time, along with Mulholland Drive. 5 stars
10/01/14 Horror Lover Not without a few slight problems, but still a work of beauty. 5 stars
2/27/14 Miguel Gomez Astonishing. Scariest 20 minutes in any horror flick (the opening). A+ score&cinematography 5 stars
8/10/13 PAUL SHORTT BRILLIANTLY MADE BUT GROTESQUE, UNINTELLIGENT, GORY AND NASTY 2 stars
7/10/13 belial1134 Argento's Masterpiece. A must for all giallo fans 5 stars
8/12/11 jiropan i like the background music.......worth a look.... 4 stars
3/16/10 art PURE GARBAGE! 1 stars
11/25/08 Roopesh Killer background music.Explicit horror scenes. 5 stars
11/17/08 brian Much ado about little, both on screen and off. 3 stars
11/16/08 mr.mike Wasn't impressed in '77 , or after watching again now. 3 stars
9/13/07 William Goss A horror film of nothing but atmosphere and aesthetics, but they are quite something. 3 stars
5/20/07 Brandon loved it! 5 stars
3/12/07 Zeynep Grpe This is the best movie of Argento's trilogy. The soundtrack made by Goblins is great! 4 stars
1/10/07 Michael Cox "I once heard that names that began with the letter S, are the names of snakes!!!!" Sssss 5 stars
12/18/06 Indrid Cold The cheese factor is pretty high, but it still works OK. 3 stars
9/27/06 matt what a load of crap! not scary at all! 1 stars
4/28/06 Agent Sands The only good Argento movie I've seen so far. 3 stars
9/04/05 Michael Mackenzie My favourite film ever - a masterpiece in every way. 5 stars
6/11/05 matt the movie go-a who ever thinks this isnt scary...has a brain problem. cant give it 5/5..cos it was 2 scary 5 stars
5/07/05 K. Sear Slow moving and anticlimactic. 3 stars
4/28/05 ThroneofBlood Beautiful murder and the occult, courtesy of Argento. 5 stars
12/02/04 Green Gremlin this beats the pants off any Freddy Krueger movie !!! 5 stars
10/31/04 Jim What the hell were these guys smoking? 2 stars
9/17/04 Joe if this is argento's best are his other movies 2 hours of him wiping his ass? 1 stars
6/06/04 Ryan Clark Lacks a little in the plot department, but this is one of Argento's best... nerve-wracking! 5 stars
5/05/04 dead next door this is deffently argentos best work to date. 5 stars
3/19/04 true review worst horror film ever, not a thinkness of a hair scary or good, dead stupid and boring 1 stars
12/21/03 Ravenheart Argento's best!!!!! 5 stars
11/03/03 Jack Sommersby Good cinematography and editing at service of blah material. 3 stars
11/01/03 American Slasher Goddess Chilling and atmospheric. Argento's best movie. 5 stars
10/17/03 Goofy Maxwell Skin-prickling, throat-constricting, panic-inducing...AAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!!! 5 stars
8/13/03 Kyle Not bad. 4 stars
7/31/03 GanPN Bad directing, bad acting, bad story, bad movie! 1 stars
7/27/03 HeavyK My first Argento film BUT definetly not the last 5 stars
5/23/03 K.B One of the best italian horror flicks ever! Great music score. 5 stars
2/06/03 .Choadushouse. My new favorite horror movie. Frickin hauntingly beautiful! 5 stars
10/18/02 Charles Tatum Much better than Dario's recent output 5 stars
8/09/02 Tyner fuck euro-horror! This was the lamest piece of shit I have ever watched. 1 stars
4/28/02 dave macdougall forget the plot...the style, set peices and atmosphere make this worth it. 4 stars
3/01/02 Alan Smithee A triumph of style over substance. It always seemed to have the feel of a nightmare. 5 stars
2/18/02 masin wolliams THE most beautiful film ever made. 5 stars
11/30/01 Rutt13 great stuuf, looks and sounds like a genuine nightmare 4 stars
10/15/01 Nanuk Fricken awesome! Must watch more than once to fully appreciate the film! 5 stars
10/15/01 Viper Style over substance, VERY creepy atmosphere! The opening murder scene is viscious! 5 stars
9/29/01 Mohammad J. check out the barbed wire scene! 5 stars
9/07/01 dazzza the best italian shock horror movie ever made! 5 stars
8/13/01 Norman First rate movie. 5 stars
6/25/01 Lars Pettersson The Italian master of horror has made this. Love the camerawork and music! Cool !!! 4 stars
3/30/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) It scared the living hell out of me...and I'm notoriously hard to scare... 5 stars
2/04/01 Invader This movie is poorly directed with litle impact or intensity, a poor attempt at b grade 2 stars
9/24/00 malcolm horrifying! doesn't translate well to the 2K's though. 3 stars
7/11/00 Eric Outstanding, memorably nerve-chilling and Jessica Harper has one of the 'Great Faces' ever! 5 stars
7/06/00 DAVID F**KIN AWSOME!!!! 5 stars
2/03/00 Mr. C A brilliant film. Argento uses music, color scheme, and violence to extreme effect. 5 stars
12/05/99 E Varden Shot like a bad porn film without the porn, awful direction and no continuity. 1 stars
9/18/99 Brian This was an unbelievably bad movie. It paled in the faces of anything ever done before. 1 stars
9/07/99 Elijah Effective, but not the best horror film ever. 4 stars
9/04/99 Weird Andy Scarier than "Blair Witch" or "The Exorcist" 5 stars
7/22/99 Chad Opitz The most terrifying film I have ever seen. And I've seen a lot. 5 stars
6/24/99 Mauro61 Amazing colours use in Argento's masterpiece 5 stars
3/03/99 Jerry-93 Dario, My Lord, you've done it again. 5 stars
10/23/98 Kwyjibo A good film, but doesn't do it all the way for me. Worth seeing though. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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  02-Feb-1978 (R)

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