Watching or should I say experiencing Suspiria for the first time is an unforgettable experience. I found myself alone on one dark,brooding night. There was not a soul to be found in the house and it was after midnight. I casually flicked through the television channels and then suddenly it found me. I had never seen a Dario Argento film nor many Italian horror films, particularly the ‘giallo’ genre in which Argento had carved his reputation up to that point. Nothing prepared me for Suspiria. And yet I was probably dreaming it all my life.
The pounding soundtrack, feverish visuals, twisted fairytale atmosphere; a sense of bizarre disconnection heightened even further by the off kilter English dubbing.The sensation that of a dream slowly turning in on itself just before you wake up screaming, that moment of panic when you realize something is off, when somebody or some thing is watching you or ready to devour, destroy, humiliate you.
These feelings, moods, states are what Argento, his frequent musical collaborators Goblin and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli manage to evoke throughout in this hypnotic, outlandish masterwork. The films plot is secondary, a young America woman played by Jessica Harper attends a ballet school located in a forest somewhere in Germany. Said ballet school turns out to be a witches coven and people start to die in spectacularly gruesome and stylish ways.
It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t need to. A film like this bypasses your logical synapses and forces you to experience it on a purely visceral, sensory level. A vivid, grotesque, operatic, nightmarish adult fairytale. A film that defines what a pure horror movie should be and what it should do. Turn up the volume, turn down the lights and let yourself be scared.