Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the American release of Dario Argento’s seminal film, Suspiria. While a remake is in the works, many feel that the original is a sacred piece of art that could not be recreated. The saturated colors, cavernous sets, hair-raising score, and off-putting tone of the film make it truly iconic.
So today, let’s take a minute to revisit the immeasurable beauty of Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
First off, the visual tone of the film is incredible. The vibrant hues are a far cry from the usual dark and gritty scenes we’re used to in horror films. Each set is lush and bright, but the colors used are mostly unsettling shades of the primary colors – deep reds, dark yellows and rich blues.
By containing only primary colors, the bold palette overwhelms the senses. The use of secondary colors would create a feeling of balance, so by only providing us with shades of red, blue, yellow, black and white, we feel overpowered. It’s a subtle way to create a reaction from your audience, but it’s effective.
Scenes shot in this color scheme are usually set in tight hallways or enclosed spaces. As a result, each room, each scene, feels like the walls are closing in on you. When lighter shades are used, the rooms are open, but shot from afar. The subject seems small and insignificant, showing signs of distress in a room that would normally seem bright and calm.
The architecture is stunning and dreamlike. Patterns and accents are used liberally to create a busy scene, even when the camera is stationary.
The sets themselves are gorgeous and I really could go on and on about the design, because it’s one of the elements that really sets this film apart. The way the colors and the pressured tone of the film communicate together is beautiful.
Now, let’s add in the music.
Goblin’s persistent score teases us with gravelly, barely audible whispers over top of a repetitive, simple tune. The effect is maddening and creates tension in a way that many modern filmmakers cannot.
As doe-eyed Suzy (in an untouchable performance by Jessica Harper) explores the school through the climax of the film, the music steadily pounds. It’s unrelenting. Sometimes less is more, but in Suspiria, Argento layers more and more on top until you’re stifling under all the pressure.
Speaking of the climax, let there be no mistake – the film is a work of art, but it’s not just a pretty picture. Brutal horror is part of this whole gore-geous package. The blood is vibrant, and the deaths are cruel and creative. Each kill is shocking, but they all fit in with the unnerving yet beautiful aesthetic.
The tone itself is one of dreamy confusion. Because some of the actors were speaking English, others Italian or German, all of the lines were dubbed over in English. When watching the film – if you weren’t aware of the language barrier – you feel like you’re going a bit mad trying to figure out why some of the actresses lips don’t line up with the dialogue.
In Suspiria, young Suzy is trapped in a mystery, traipsing through her memories to try and piece the puzzle together. When she comes to the school, she is thrown into the middle of a strange environment. The audience understands her struggle as we work to comprehend the situation ourselves.
The tension creeps through the film as students are killed in vicious and violent ways. It grows to a climax and explodes – literally – across the screen.
Through the credits, we hear the dying screams of those trapped inside the school. The horror stays with you through to the very end – there is no release until the film is truly over.
Suspiria proves that horror is not just revving chainsaws, dark spaces, and torture porn. It is a finely crafted work of art. All elements of the film come together to create an incomparable classic that still holds up 40 years later.
Are you dying to know more about Suspiria? Check out this list of 10 Fun Facts about the film!