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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Jessica Harper
Stefania Casini
Udo Kier.
Directors
Dario Argento.
Screenwriters
Dario Argento
Daria Nicolodi.
Running Time
97 minutes

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Suspiria
As close to perfection as the genre has probably ever come.


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Plot
A young American dancer travels to Europe to join a famous ballet school. As she arrives, the camera turns to another young woman, who appears to be fleeing from the school. She returns to her apartment where she is gruesomely murdered by a hideous creature. Meanwhile, the young American is trying to settle in at the ballet school, but hears strange noises and is troubled by bizarre occurrences. She eventually discovers that the school is merely a front for a much more sinister organization.


Review
Dario Argento, horror's Italian Stallion, puts his bloodstained cards on the table right from Suspiria's gory get-go. In the middle of the night in a raging storm a young woman runs screaming from an exclusive Frieberg ballet school. We see her hurtling, screaming through the woods, illuminated by lightning.

After she arrives at a friend's apartment she peers through a window into the tumult only for an arm to smash through one window pane and, in a loving, extended shot, suffocate her against the other. While her friend drums hysterically against the locked door the gloved hand repeatedly stabs the girl. In the next shot the stabbing continues, this time in full close up as the fiend winds a rope around the shrieking victims legs. And in the piece de resistance, we cut to the friend running into the lobby of the apartment building for help. As she looks up towards a stained glass ceiling, the victim's head crashes through it in a hail of glass shards followed by her body. We cut to the blood drenched corpse, suspended by the rope dripping blood onto the floor, finally Argento pans the camera to reveal his next horror. The falling glass has pinned the friend to the ground crucifix like, the largest sliver having split her face in half.

We are now 13 minutes into Suspiria, and if the poster tagline — "The only thing more terrifying than the first 80 minutes of Suspiria... is the last 10" — has any truth in it we're in for a deeply unnerving experience. Argento, often called the Italian Hitchcock (it's a misnomer, the only things the two actually share are grandiose misogyny and a liking for sustained sequences) is arguably Italy's foremost horror director and Suspiria is his finest movie to date. It's difficult to give a flavour of its unique, surreal, hyper-intense mood by simply describing it. It's not all that helpful to outline the plot, since there's very little of it, and what there is doesn't make much sense.

An American goes to a Frieberg dance academy, finds that people have a habit of vanishing or getting killed in unusual circumstances, discovers it's all down to an ancient coven of witches and burns the place to the ground. And there you have it. But in fact the plot, such as it is, is just a device to link a series of gloriously realised set-pieces. Argento is a maestro of sustained horror sequences. In one a blind man is suddenly set upon by his own guide-dog — the scene is shot audaciously in either extreme long shot (a kind of pigeon's eye view) or extreme close ups of the hound tearing horribly realistic chunks out of the unfortunate man's neck. A young dancer is combing her hair at night only to find a maggot in it. And then another. As she looks up she discovers the whole ceiling is crawling with them and they begin to rain down on her. In one of the most gleefully sadistic sequences ever put on film a scantily clad co-ed tumbles into a barbed wire filled pit. The camera looks on, unmoving, as she struggles, working herself deeper and deeper into the seemingly endless barbs. It's possibly the clearest expression of the director's embedded hatred of women, or at least his desire to see them tortured and mutilated. He remains unrepentant about it. "A woman in peril is emotionally affecting," he told Empire back in 1997. "A man simply isn't."

And then there's Argento's masterful use of deep primary colours — the sets are bathed in garish red and green light (he acquired 1950s Technicolor stock to get the effect) giving the whole film a hallucinatory intensity. The score, composed by Argento and performed by his frequent collaborators, rock band Goblin, sounds as though Hell's demons rented a studio and decided to jam. Screams, wailings, hissing steam and some kind of diabolical digeridoo are punctuated with the occasional distorted shriek of "Witch!". It's enough to loosen the bowels on its own.

Argento, who started out in gialli (pulp thrillers) has never really delivered on the promise, in horror terms at least, he showed with Suspiria. There was a disappointing sequel, Inferno in 1980, which despite a couple of the trademark set-pieces failed to attain the demented heights of its inspiration. Creepers (aka Phenomena (1984) had B-movie stalwart Donald Pleasance battling "moths" while The Stendhal Syndrome (1996) was simply a step too far even for Argento fans with its graphic rape sequence, particularly tasteless since its victim was played by Argento's daughter Asia.


Verdict
In spite of his recent shortcomings, as an appetizer to the thoroughly bizarre world of Italian horror, Suspiria is the perfect antipasto.


Reviewed by Adam Smith

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Suspiria
Empire Star Rating

RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

AL: TrendMeUp Francis, your initial review of the film was pretty infuriating. sp; Hi TrendMeUp. Not as disappointing as watching this film was for me I'm sure.   gest we should "call a spade a spade" and admit the film is rubbish. Well that is your opinion, but don't present it as fact.p; I didn't; feel free to go back and re-read what I said.   are not the only publication to give this film a brilliant review. Infact I think it is considered by most who see it to be o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 17:53, 18 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

Francis, your initial review of the film was pretty infuriating. You suggest we should "call a spade a spade" and admit the film is rubbish. Well that is your opinion, but don't present it as fact. Empire are not the only publication to give this film a brilliant review. Infact I think it is considered by most who see it to be one of the best horror films ever made. I also really can't see why you would knock the film for its effects when it was made on a limited budget over 30 years ago. ... More

Posted by TrendMeUp at 00:11, 12 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

Francis, your initial review of the film was pretty infuriating. You suggest we should "call a spade a spade" and admit the film is rubbish. Well that is your opinion, but don't present it as fact. Empire are not the only publication to give this film a brilliant review. Infact I think it is considered by most who see it to be one of the best horror films ever made. I also really can't see why you would knock the film for its effects when it was made on a limited budget over 30 years ago. ... More

Posted by TrendMeUp at 00:10, 12 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

Better post and I will post my problems with it. have tried to make my opinion on this film clear. I do indeed think that the majority of people would think that this film is poor. This is not pomposity but an evaluation of the film on its merits. ut so are many many films and yet they do great with audiences (ie get their money back), the quality sometimes means nothing with success  (House of Wax remake with Hilton and the Saw franchise were financial successes, does that m... More

Posted by Deviation at 22:14, 11 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

Deviation- Apology accepted, there is nothing like a good Saturday night out! have tried to make my opinion on this film clear. I do indeed think that the majority of people would think that this film is poor. This is not pomposity but an evaluation of the film on its merits. I am not forcing this view on anybody; it is simply my opinion. The only way to verify this would be if there were many more opinons regarding this film available. These opinions have to date not been forthcoming and I su... More

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Posted by Francis46 at 21:28, 11 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

Suspiria isn't meant to be scary. It's obviously horribly dubbed and acted. It's all about the atmosphere though - those colours combined with a fantastic score by Goblin make it more than worthwhile. Arty? How? 12-year-olds? To break the rules you've got to know them first. Argento's Deep Red is better, but this is still great, and more memorable than most horror films I've seen. ... More

Posted by Miles Messervy 007 at 21:10, 11 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

Sorry, the foul language came out becuase the post was late at night after a night of good drinking, I apologize. However, I could have done much worse, I could be judging the film with my opinion as the one the mainstream will appreciate, calling it terms like "arty" and "academic" which provide little description on what the film is. aving said that, if you wish to take the trouble to read my original post about this film you will note that I made some comment about a few of the film's... More

Posted by Deviation at 17:48, 11 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

L: Deviation Still I see no reason on why the film is amateurish or how it could have been filmed by 12 year olds, while the special effects can be and are dodgy (among other flaws), it still has some fantastic lighting and some superbly filmed shots. And  whoever uses the words "arty" or "academic" in a discussion on film then the person should be immediately considered null becuase those words are horrible, pointless and vacuous criticisms to give to a film. And who the fuck gives... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 13:50, 11 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

L: Francis46 I'll respond to this bit as your comments relate to my original quote that Suspiria could have been filmed by twelve year olds. I stand by this comment, and my earlier ones, as in my opinion the film is amateurish on many levels. I remain unimpressed by the "Blue Peter" level of effects throughout the film coupled with a dire plot and acting. All of this combines to make a very dull movie experience. Arty? Yes, of course. Does this quality mean that the film is i... More

Posted by Deviation at 02:59, 11 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

L: Deviation As it is, to my eyes, Suspiria looks as if it could have been filmed by a group of 12 year olds as part of a school project. am not a big fan of Suspiria, it might feature the most fake looking bat in cinema history and some special effects towards the end are dodgy, pacing and storytelling can be static at times and the dubbing is rubbish (why did Italian cinema use so much dubbing, it is a bit poor and even the greats like Fellini and Pasolini didn't do a great job wit... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 23:34, 10 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is a better horror film than this!

L: C3 5 stars...5 STARS!!! LMFAO! This film is one of the funniest films I have EVER seen and er...its not a comedy...Ok its incredibly dated so we can forgive the terrible effects with the Heinz ketchup blood..But man this film had me in stiches. the soundtrack itself is beyond TERRIBLE...an awful twanging guitar mess which TOTALLY ruins any tension that may have been created...but it doesn't stop there...truly abysmal acting, and a cast that makes the women from prisoner Cell block H lo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Deviation at 14:00, 30 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: if you are thick you won't like this movie

"Voluptuous", genius. ... More

Posted by Osric at 11:10, 30 March 2010 | Report This Post


if you are thick you won't like this movie

SUSPIRIA is a kind of mish mash of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, (The fall of the house of usher, Dreams in the witch house). The main plot owes more to Lovecraft than Poe, however Daria Nicoldi has stated Suspiria is based upon a true story told to her by her grandmother. Argento's finest movie ever, it's as veluptious as an 18 yeaar old cheerleader, Real Horror for real horror fans. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Horrorguru at 14:53, 17 March 2010 | Report This Post


Last october I saw Suspiria for the first time and back thenI loved it. Now, with the release of the British blu-ray, I watched it again. And then you see the true masterpieces emerge. Because even though it was so shortly ago that I saw it, I once again loved every second of it. The (pretty controversial) blu-ray itself then. There is a lot to do about the picture quality but I have to say that I didn`t think it was that bad at all. There are some moments where it looks like the picture is ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 22:55, 26 January 2010 | Report This Post


Suspiria

A horror classic, beautiful but disturbing. Some gaps in plot and character so there can be more scares but still a must see. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:33, 25 January 2010 | Report This Post


Suspiria

A horror classic, beautiful but disturbing. Some gaps in plot and character so there can be more scares but still a must see. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:33, 25 January 2010 | Report This Post


oh it's so...... artistic

It's over the top pretentious bollox just like all of Dario's films there is I admit such a thing as suspension of disbelief, with Dario it's more a case of suspension of intellect. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hi charlie at 16:42, 24 January 2010 | Report This Post


Suspiria

In a truly unnerving experience, Dario Argento decides to use bright, vibrant colours to scare rather than use the traditional blacks, browns etc. Suspiria is a masterpiece of the genre and truly deserves a wider audience, if they can handle the strangeness of it, that is. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by krisjcummins at 18:50, 21 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is still a better horror film than this!

If you liked Suspira try 1975's Deep Red its a really great horror movie.   Also Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Tenabrae and Opera are all pretty good Argento movies  ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 11:06, 21 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is still a better horror film than this!

L: Dr Lenera Horror is often difficult to judge because people are scared of different things, like Paranormal Activity you have to maybe really allow yourself to be drawn in by Suspiria and it's probably too strange to appeal to many fans of Saw, Hostel etc, plus like in Italian horror films it was shot silent and then dubbed over by the actors or dubbers, giving the dialogue an odd feel. Nevertheless, this is true cinematic art, where Argento and his collaborators seem to be pushing themsel... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 22:25, 20 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is still a better horror film than this!

This masterpiece derserves a longer review from me some day, but this is one of the greatest horror films ever made and shows Dario Argento at the peak of his powers. It's an incredibly stylised effort, bridging the gap between arthouse and horror et Suspiria was his biggest commercial success. He uses everything at his disposal to create and immerse his audience in a dark fairytale the use of outmoded film stock creating a wierd and beautiful colour scheme, to the deafening, freaky music by ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:47, 20 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is still a better horror film than this!

L: Francis46 I hear what you are saying evil bill but a horror movie in my view has to engender some actual horror whilst watching it. If the movie in the question has some commendable artistic components to it then all well and good but I would not give the movie a five star review solely on this basis. As it is, to my eyes, Suspiria looks as if it could have been filmed by a group of 12 year olds as part of a school project. The film's inability to make the viewer feel em... More

Posted by evil bill at 19:57, 19 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is still a better horror film than this!

I hear what you are saying evil bill but a horror movie in my view has to engender some actual horror whilst watching it. If the movie in the question has some commendable artistic components to it then all well and good but I would not give the movie a five star review solely on this basis. As it is, to my eyes, Suspiria looks as if it could have been filmed by a group of 12 year olds as part of a school project. The film's inability to make the viewer feel emotionally invested ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 19:23, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Carry On Camping is still a better horror film than this!

L: Francis46 I think that there are two ways of taking this movie: Either you call a spade a spade and recognise this movie for what I and others on this thread think that is (a contrived, dull, poorly acted excuse for a horror film which is coincidentally amusing precisely because it is so naff) or you buy into the notion that it is somehow a landmark cultural achievement within the horror genre. Potential new viewers.. you have been warned! ote] It's rated highly by most on this ... More

Posted by evil bill at 15:45, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post


Carry On Camping is still a better horror film than this!

I think that there are two ways of taking this movie: Either you call a spade a spade and recognise this movie for what I and others on this thread think that is (a contrived, dull, poorly acted excuse for a horror film which is coincidentally amusing precisely because it is so naff) or you buy into the notion that it is somehow a landmark cultural achievement within the horror genre. Potential new viewers.. you have been warned! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 00:34, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post


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