Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Film Review: Suspiria (1977)

Fig.1 Suspiria Movie Poster (1977)
Directed in 1977 by Dario Argento, Suspiria is a horror/slasher movie which will stay in your memory forever. Despite the questionable storyline, the lighting effects and haunting soundtrack are what makes this film so special. The story revolves around main character Suzy Bannion (played by Jessica Harper) who arrives from New York to a European ballet academy. A series of unexplained murders coupled with the strange night-time movements of the staff lead Suzy to investigate the suggestion of witchcraft in the school. Suzy manages to stay level-headed throughout the ordeal, despite the traumatic happenings around her and the discovery that the school was originally founded to study the occult by fabled witch Helena Markos. 

Fig.2 Main character Suzy Bannion, Film Still (1977)
Fig.3 Ballet instructor, Ms Tanner, Film Still (1977)
The powerful use of colour in this movie is such that it completely overtakes the characters and storyline, but it is obvious that this was Argento's intention (Fig.4). Red is most dominant as one would expect from this genre of film and when it comes to the death scenes, nothing is left to the imagination. The colour use, however, makes the gore seem more acceptable as Janet Maslin states in her New York Times review "Argento's methods make potentially stomach-turning material more interesting than it ought to be. Shooting on bold, very fake-looking sets, he uses bright primary colors and stark lines to create a campy, surreal atmosphere, and his distorted camera angles and crazy lighting turn out to be much more memorable than the carnage." (Maslin, 1977).
Fig.4 The powerful use of colour in the film, Movie Still (1977)
The production design puts the viewer on edge from the very beginning of the film both visually and through the disturbing soundtrack, created by Italian band Goblin. Flashes of colour through torrential rain give us the impression of blood splattering and the bright red of the ballet school building immediately warn us of danger (Fig.5). In her Eye for Film review, Jennie Kermode says of the movie "This is horror shot with dazzling energy yet with the visual depth and acuity of a Renaissance painting. Those who doubt the artistic potential of the horror genre should be nailed down and made to watch it." (Kermode, 2008).
Fig.5 The red walls of the ballet academy, Movie Still (1977)
Named after the Latin word for 'sighs'. Suspiria is an amazingly intense and haunting movie. The marriage of colour and sound create extreme uneasiness and one can never quite tell where the plot will take us next. Jason Buchanan sums up the film perfectly when he says in his All Movie review "this unrelenting tale of the supernatural was - and likely still is - the closest a filmmaker has come to capturing a nightmare on film." (Buchanan, s.d.). Although the violence and gore may be too extreme for some, they are worth tolerating to experience the amazing design of this notorious film which will leave a horror hangover that many more modern films of the genre fail to achieve.
 Fig.6 Use of colour to create tension, Movie Still (1977)
Illustration List:
Figure 1. Suspiria, (1977) [Movie Poster] At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Figure 2. Main character Suzy Bannion, (1977) [Film Still] At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Figure 3. Ballet instructor, Ms Tanner, (1977) [Film Still] At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Figure 4. The powerful use of colour in the film, (1977) [Movie Still] At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Figure 5. The red walls of the ballet academy, (1977) [Movie Still] At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Figure 6. Use of colour to create tension, (1977) [Movie Still] At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Maslin, J (1977), NY Times review At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Kermode, J (2008), Eye for Film review At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)
Buchanan, J (s.d.) All Movie review At:
(Accessed on 02.12.14)

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