The 1000 Movie Journey is now in full on Halloween mode. Let's get some decorations up in here!
Oh...that's not right...anyway, Suspiria!
The next movie on our list, coming in at #435. This is Dario Argento's vivid, totally off-putting foray into witchcraft and the world of dance. Beautiful and frightening, this is a proper horror film.
A young ballet dancer named Suzy makes the decision to study at a prestigious boarding school in Switzerland, despite Switzerland's long and illustrious history of being Where the Witches Live. Upon arriving at the school on a rainy night, she witnesses another girl running away from the school.
This girl, we find out, is Pat, and she's been finding out some spooky shit about her school. She stays the night at a friend's house in town, and plans on leaving in the morning. This turns out to be unnecessarily far sighted of her, as she and her friend are brutally murdered. Pat is smothered by a window, stabbed repeatedly, thrown through a glass ceiling, and hanged, while her friend is impaled by the falling shards of ceiling.
Naturally, it doesn't take Suzy very long to notice that her new home is more than a little on the creepy side. The butch German woman (Brunhilde or Frau Blucher or whatever her name is) and headmistress Dolores Umbridge are welcoming to her, but also incredibly off-putting. When Suzy insists on being allowed to live in an apartment in town instead of moving into the school dorms, they get the unpleasant cook to put some kind of voodoo on her that makes her incredibly weak. She passes out in dance class and gets the mother of all nose bleeds - giving the Witch Squad the perfect opportunity to keep her at school. The doctor insists that she drink a glass of wine each night, which is so obviously drugged it's not even funny.
So much so that when her new friend Sarah tries to confide in her some of the strange things she's noticed, Suzy can barely stay awake. Sarah is convinced that There's Something Weird Going on Here, and when she can't manage to rouse Suzy, she decides to explore the dark, spooky school by herself. I think this is a supernaturally bad idea.
And I am right. Sarah somehow manages to smash herself into a window, cuts herself pretty badly, locks herself into a random room, accidentally falls into a pit of what looks like steel wire (???), screams bloody murder, and promptly gets her throat cut by a mysterious gloved arm. Silly ballet dancers: 0, Forces of Darkness: 2.
Conveniently, Suzy has a number of a psychiatrist who (conveniently) is familiar with Sarah and her curiosity about witches. He also (conveniently) knows an older gentleman who is (CONVENIENTLY) an expert on witchcraft. These people (CONVENIENTLY!!!) tell her everything she needs to know about the coven that runs the school. This is all very convenient.
Suzy heads back to the school, where she finds a secret passage that leads to the witches'...secret clubhouse? She happens on them as they're discussing killing her (that's harsh), but manages to sneak into the room where they're hiding the Grand High Witch. Witchypoo does not appreciate being snuck up on, and she uses Sarah's dead body to try to kill Suzy. Instead of attacking Sarah, Suzy decides to stab at the outline of a body that (again, quite conveniently) randomly flashes on the bed. This kills the head witch, as well as the rest of the witches...and starts the building on fire. That's lucky. Suzy laughs and walks away from the school, pleased with her little foray into witchhunting/arson.
- I like the music very much. It makes me think of a demented version of one of those ballerina music boxes. Although come to think of it, they're all pretty creepy, aren't they?
- I LOVE the set design in this movie. I know it's a horror movie, but everything is so beautiful and eerie. And it's amazingly well shot, Argento really knew what he was doing here. Two impressed thumbs up.
- But what's up with Pat's friend, the girl in the apartment? She's got a serious case of bad-dubitis.
- I love the shot right before Pat gets killed. She's looking out the window, and there's some fabric hanging outside, so her reflection looks like it's wearing a shroud. Very cool.
- So in the locker room, Sarah and Olga get into a fight, culminating in Olga hissing and Sarah sticking her tongue out repeatedly in response. I realize that when the script was written the characters were supposed to be like 12 years old, but seeing girls in their late teens-early 20s acting like that is all kinds of ridiculous.
- Thousands of maggots falling from the ceiling??
What fresh hell is this?? If that wasn't on my Top Ten Things I Never Want to Happen to Me list before I saw this movie, it certainly is now.
- Why does this school's practice room have hellish red light? Is it so that, on the off chance that all the students have to sleep there, it would be as horrifying as possible? Likewise, what was the point of putting the sheets up, if not to create a creepy, red-tinted silhouette of the directress? These witches fight dirty.
- Aw, I love the blind man and his dog. They're like my favorite characters. OMG...the witches made the dog go crazy and kill Daniel??
Watching the dog tear at his flesh is easily the most disturbing image of the movie for me so far.
- OK, so the scene where Sarah is trapped in that room, and someone's sticking a knife through the slit to try and unlock the door? How hard would it have been for Sarah to just stand next to the door and hold the lock down, rather than cowering in the corner? I realize she's frightened and probably in shock, but hey, if you're going to be the nosy one in a horror film, the one who just has to figure out why All These Weird Things Keep Happening, you should at least be able to keep your shit together.
- How did Suzy know to call this psychiatrist guy? I'm so confused, one second they're telling her Sarah ran away, and the next she's ringing up someone she's never met and who has never been mentioned in the film. Am I supposed to assume that Sarah told Suzy all about her psychiatrist at one of their slumber parties or something?
- OK, the rubber bat is a little silly. Although I like that it bleeds when she kills it. It's a nice detail, and Argento should never pass up the opportunity to get that beautiful red blood on camera.
- Hold up. Stop everything. So Suzy is in the witches' clubhouse, and she finds Sarah's body...with needles sticking into her eyes. That is so disturbing I don't even know how to cope. And ew those bitches nailed her down to the table. The girl is dead, she's not going anywhere!
- I officially retract that last comment. Apparently she is going somewhere.
- Do not like the Black Queen Do not like the Black Queen Do not like the Black Queen
So that's Suspiria. It's probably one of the most well filmed horror movie that I've ever seen. The sets and colors are breathtaking and really add to the surreal, eerie quality that the film is trying to maintain. The only thing I really don't like about it is that after all the set up, after the great development in the first hour, some professor who's an expert in witchcraft shows up and tells Suzy everything she needs to know. Wouldn't it have been better if she had done some detective work of her own? And the acting isn't amazing, but hey, it's a horror movie, not A Long Day's Journey Into Night. It's a really fun film to watch, and there's a tremendous amount of care that went into it.
That's it for me! Tune in next time for Halloween. Thanks for reading!