From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
"The first 80 minutes you might be faint but in the last 20 minutes you might be shocked!" This is the tagline for the Thai poster of "Suspiria", the masterpiece of Euro-Horror subgenre. I heard A LOT about this film since I started studying exploitation film genres. Of course, everybody tells me that this film is shocking, thrilling, and scary as hell. So today, after I finished my homework, I decided to watch this Dario Argento classic. Yes, this film shoots straight to be one of my favorite horror movies of all time (besides Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and John Carpenter's The Thing).
Basically, the plot is about a young American woman named Suzy (Jessica Harper) who travels to Germany to study ballet. On the night she arrives at the dance academy, she sees someone running away from it (of course, that woman is killed later) and then she discovers many mysterious things going on around her. To me, this film is a neo-noir/horror/fantasy. I'm serious, this film is the neo-noir genre. Our hero (Suzy) resembles the detective who has to investigate things, including an urban legend about witches. Her friend (Sarah) is the femme-fatale because she's the one who told Suzy about the witch stories and strange things going on. So, Sarah drags Suzy into a shocking and cruel truth that will change their life forever.
Another thing that resembles film-noir is the lighting. It uses bright light and vivid colors which is totally different from other horror movies that tend to use the dark to often create things like the stupid jump scare. Although you're pretty sure that the characters you see on the screen are about to die, you have no idea that how will they die. And, trust me, it's twisted and shocking. At this point, you might ask "Well, since it's bright and vivid, how shocking could it be?". It uses a great story build-up and chilling atmosphere to build the suspense. Another film that also uses this method is Kubrick's The Shining. In that film, it uses plot, camera angles and editing to make us to scared. In this case, it uses lighting, plot, and really good effects to scare us. Just take a look at the beginning, we all know that a girl is going to die for sure, but who could tell that she will be pushed through windows, stabbed through her heart (you could see her heart beating in this scene!), and hung in the middle of an apartment? Nobody! Because, usually, gory scenes like this happen in the middle or the final portion of the film. The audience doesn't expect to see those kinds of crazy effects at the very beginning.
Also, another factor that makes this film effective is the soundtrack. The score by Goblin creates even more suspense and a chilling atmosphere for the audience. In fact, if you listen to the score closely, you can hear the word "witch" being repeated several times which is a small hint to the superb climax scene.
In conclusion, if you want to be thrilled this upcoming Halloween or want to find out whether the first 80 minutes or the last 20 minutes will totally scare the hell out of you, Suspiria is the film to watch. Strongly recommended.
Nuttawut Permpithak hails from Thailand. He spends his free time watching exploitation films (or any films from the past) writing articles, taking photos and reviewing films for GCDb.