← Back to Reviews


My second Argento review and this one was always going to happen sooner or later, I mean the main character is in my avatar!

However, Suspiria is undoubtedly the reason as to why I fell in love with Argento's (early) films, for me, it is the perfect horror film, and I doubt any other horror film will surpass my adoration that I'll probably always maintain for this film. As a bit of a warning, expect pictures and videos aplenty, for this is a film that can only be rationalised once you see it in one way or another.

The plot follows an American ballet dancer, Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper), who travels to Freiburg, Germany, in order to attend a prestigious dance academy that is run by Madame Blanche (Joan Bennett) and the chief instructor, Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). However, upon arriving, Suzy begins to notice that several members of the academy keep vanishing without a trace, and she begins to suspect that her school is run by a coven of witches...

Vampires, werewolves and zombies have been done to death within this genre, and it's hard to distinguish between many films belonging to each of these categories. However, this film is probably the first (if not only) film to successfully tackle a plot revolving around witches without descending into something boring, tacky, or camp. So in this aspect, the film is extremely original, for a minimal amount of films prior to the late seventies had extensively explored witches in an immensely dark fashion, and as a result, it allows Argento to deliver and explore one the most prominent and apparent themes within his films...

Feminism. Literally every character of any significance here is female (with one exception), and they retain every fraction of power here, and they thoroughly exercise it, brutally executing people who were only a slight annoyance to them and their disguised existence. However, the protagonists, namely Suzy Banyon, is also a delicately crafted and empowered figure whose capabilities are realistic. A major complaint people have with this film is that the ending is brief and a bit anti-climatic. However, had there been a massive show down between a teenage, American girl and a coven of witches who dedicate all of their time into killing women just like herself, then it would have been idiotic to say the least to have Suzy emerge victorious, so even within Argento's fantastical and bizarre world, he always remains very aware and perceptive in regards to the intelligence and expectations of his viewers.

As per usual, Argento's direction is nothing short of superb and masterful. The rich palette of colours on offer ensure that every scene always remains beautifully entrancing, enchanting, and captivating. And once again, Argento's philosophy of using a moving camera continues to prove that an animated and active camera is always better than a catatonic and static one, with point of view shots from the killers perspectives quite frequently sending shivers down my spine due to the tense and creepy atmosphere that is maintained throughout, due to a multitude of varying factors. He also uses the soundtrack to magnificent effect, and I don't think a more appropriate and fitting score has been constructed for any other horror film, possibly every other film as well. The English dub is terrific too, with Jessica Harper, Joan Bennett and Alida Valli all providing their voices for this version, and when you look at how awful some of his other English dubs are, I was quite appreciative when this one turned out okay!

Moving onto the death scenes, everyone who has seen this film always seems to remember the opening kill. Which, although it could well be the greatest opening death scene in any horror film, isn't necessarily the greatest. Argento maintains a consistent level throughtout every death sequence in this film. Every last kill is extended and maximised to its absolute potential (every death scene is a minimum of five minutes long), and every last one is memorable to say the least, all of them have created a lasting and apparent effect on future horror films too. For example, the barbed wire scene was referenced in Saw II via Amanda's pit needle trap, and the dog scene was apparently referenced by Wes Craven in the original The Hills Have Eyes too (some people credit it for inspiring Black Swan as well, although I'm not so sure). Furthermore, the score creates and enhances the impending sense of danger in store for each character, and I really just can't emphasise how terrific the score is. As a small side note, it was nice to see a male character being granted such a memorable death scene, considering the most brutal scenes are usually left for females. I'll leave it here, because I doubt I'm explaining how all these factors blend together so fantastically well:

What I love about this film as well, is how Argento managed to cast icons of both American cinema (Joan Bennett, who was cast because of her work with Fritz Lang) and European cinema (Alida Valli) and seeing them on screen together was amazing to say the least! Both of them deliver deliciously wicked performances as sinister witches, and Joan Bennett rightfully earned herself a nomination for Best Supporting Actresses in one of the first Saturn award ceremonies. Nevertheless, I felt as though Alida Valli was better, and a scene between her and Flavio Bucci (Who I thought was Argento himself somehow when I first saw this! ), was the highlight of the acting abilities this film offered to us. Jessica Harper herself though was terrific in creating a Snow White like figure, and this scene was perhaps her greatest, quickly shifting from looking intrigued, to shooting icy glares and looking so fatigued and ill by the end.

And finally the score! I've already gone on about it, so I'll try and keep this short and sweet, but it was magnificent, and an Oscar nom was truly robbed here. The theme, and every last piece of music was so fitting and emblematic of the wider context surrounding the events. I'll put it here, but I think it works better when you hear it within the film itself!

The plot is simplistic. I think it was IMDb, but it was probably somewhere else, but anyway, it told you to try and explain the plot of this film to someone else without making it sound awful... and it's difficult to say the least! It's straight forward, but, if anything, it emphasises Argento's skill and creativity, for it takes someone extremely talented to take something so simplistic and make it into a masterpiece of cinema.

It contains some flaws, definitely. However, the score, acting, directing, cinematography, and dubbing work fantastically together to create something so gorgeous and memorable. I wouldn't call this film terrifying, but it's always creepy and tense, and it sent shivers down my spine quite a few times. The mise-en-scene is quirky too, all the door knobs are shoulder height, because originally these girls were meant to be 12 and not 20, and Argento wanted to emphasise their youth and naivety (this explains why the dialogue can be a bit child like at times as well!). Anyway, I adore it, but I don't think it's for everyone. But I'd be foolish to give this nothing less than: