This review is part of my Remake Preview series, where I watch the original version (or versions) of a movie that is set to be re-made in the near future.
Wake up little Susie, wake up!
Suspiria is an unconventional horror masterpiece, a nightmarish entry from Italian director Dario Argento. Suspiria is filled with an unrelenting dread, as spurred through a dream logic not unlike that of David Lynch, vibrantly colorful and gloomily lit and off-putting at every turn.
As we follow lead character Suzy (Jessica Harper) on her trip to join a ballet academy in Germany, even from the very first moment, we can tell something is awry. Our suspicions are only confirmed when we get to the academy and see another girl running away. And yet, despite the warning signs, Suzy proceeds into a hell that few cinemagoers might have predicted unless they had seen the decades of films that imitated Suspiria itself.
Certain elements of Suspiria haven’t aged incredibly well; for instance, the practice of dubbing dialogue, and the way that the sound has been recorded and mixed here tends to distract from the film, especially when set against the surrealistic qualities that Argento commits to the visuals. Some of the blood that we see on screen looks too paint-like, to comical effect.
With that said, this film is so gripping that even despite these flaws it manages to grab the viewer and demand your attention. The gothic style is exactly right, and the score by Italian prog-rock band Goblin is breathtaking, eery and charming with its harsh croaks and chants set against tinkling acoustics and mellotron. This score invokes the mood of the film, the imagery of witches and covens and profane rituals, so fully, that you could listen to this score on its own and feel like you’ve truly captured the essence of Suspiria in miniature.
In a way, Suspiria feels a bit of a piece with a film like The Shining in that both are horror films in which a housing situation goes supernaturally awry in incredibly eery and off-putting ways. If Suspiria falls short, to say that it holds its own in this comparison is a testament to the masterpiece that Argento created.
Suspiria is being remade by fellow Italian Luca Guadagnino, much to Dario Argento’s chagrin. I’m of two pieces in this regard – on the one hand, it will be almost impossible to recapture the magic of what makes the original Suspiria work so well; on the other hand, there is timeless nature to the story in question, and certainly the original film shows signs of age in ways that might make it less palatable to younger audiences. A refreshed version of this film could work, but it’s certainly a tricky balancing act to pull off.
Still, there’s a great cast attached to the remake, and with Thom Yorke attached to compose the soundtrack, there’s even hope that something of the magic of the original score might be recaptured. I’m quite curious to see if Guadagnino can pull the remake off.