“Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.”
Suspiria, the 1977 cult phenomenon directed by horror master Dario Argento, has been remade. And while I’m stifling a massive groan, I’m hopeful. Argento’s classic is ripe for remaking, and although I doubt the update will surpass Argento’s vision, maybe it will bring a new generation to the original film, and ultimately, the work of Argento.
The story begins when an American ballet student named Suzy (Jessica Harper) arrives in Germany to attend a prestigious dance academy. It’s raining out. She arrives at the academy during a full blown storm. At the door, she sees a young blonde, apparently in distress, and she’s saying something. “Secrets.” “Irises”. Suzy can’t make out any more and soon, the blonde dashes away, into the woods, into the storm and the night.
During her the second day at the school, after seeing a strange light in the hall near the kitchen, Suzy falls ill in class, hemorrhaging from her mouth and nose.
Sent to bed and seen by a doctor who tells her to drink plenty of wine, in hopes that this will build up her blood, she is told rest is vital. So, with very little dancing actually taking place inside the academy, at least for Suzy, a string of disappearances, deaths, and inexplicable events (like maggots falling from the ceiling) manage to consume most of Suzy’s time and energy.
Determined to get to the bottom of the strange events going on at the academy, Suzy consults with a psychologist who is well versed in the “phenomenon” of witches and their covens.
He tells Suzy that more than a hundred years ago, the academy was inhabited by a woman named Helena Markos (The Black Queen). Markos, believed by many to be a witch, was a cruel Greek immigrant. He explains that at the head of every coven is a leader, a head witch, who is a hundred times more powerful than any other witch in the coven. Cut off the head, and the rest of the witches basically become powerless.
Suzy heads back to the academy where she suddenly recalls the words of the blonde on the night she arrived. “Secrets” and “irises.” She quickly heads to the headmistress’ office where she finds and plays with a blue iris located on the wall. A hidden door opens and Suzy steps inside, into another world, one where the rules of mortals don’t necessarily apply…
I love Suspiria because, the harder Suzy looks for answers, to piece together the reality of what’s going on, the more fantastic things become, the more evil. Suspiria feels like a faerie tale, one in which actress Jessica Harper thrives as the doe-eyed young American stuck in the middle of a thorny mystery. Her performance as Suzy is among my favorites in the horror genre, and definitely a favorite in the giallo genre.
Suspiria is a lush production, relying heavily on the play of light and color, that, unlike many other horror films from the 1970s, actually stands up to the test of time. The beauty of the art deco and art nouveau surroundings, the elegance of the environment, lend to the overall glossy, decadent production values of Suspiria. Thankfully so because, while the pacing is at times painstaking and intentful, at least you have plenty of gorgeousness to look upon.
The audio dubbing, an industry standard for Italian filmmakers at the time, is noticeable and has a tendency of interfering with the flow of the film. Even the dialogue provided by American actress Jessica Harper was not properly recorded during her scenes and had to be recorded in post and then added into the film. Luckily, Suspiria was recently digitally converted and returned to its original glory, making it a feast for your senses once more.
In the world of horror, Dario Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria is definitely a prima ballerina.
Listen to the Goblin/Dario Argento theme for Suspiria:
Wiki facts: Suspiria
Is Suspiria rotten or fresh?
How did Suspiria do at the box office?
Watch or buy Suspiria on Amazon
What does the word Suspiria mean, what does it reference?