Suspiria, Dario Argento’s psychedelicized gore-fantasy, is almost certainly your favorite non-horror director’s favorite horror movie. Why is that? Why is an Italian slasher about an American ballet student at a German dance academy infiltrated by a supernatural conspiracy so beloved, even outside of its genre?
It’s undoubtedly one of the best-shot and most visually striking horror movies ever, and would have been trebly so on release in 1977. One of the last feature films processed in Technicolor, Argento has said of it, “[w]e were trying to reproduce the colour of Walt Disney’s Snow White; it has been said from the beginning that Technicolor lacked subdued shades, [and] was without nuances — like cut-out cartoons.” Mission accomplished. Every frame of Suspiria vibrates with lush intensity. But it’s the unreal intensity of a nightmare. The violence is expressionist and hyperstylized, lurid to the point of being camp, like a water-balloon fight with pink tempera paint — and this new 4k restoration surfaces detail that may never have been visible before. It aslo happens to be one of the best scored horror movies ever, too. The Goblin soundtrack that was scary and chaotic in the ‘70s lands on modern ears as unsettling, unnatural — just wrong.
And to top all that off, like all the real timeless favorites of cinema, contemporary critics ignored it.
Infuriatingly resistant to prediction or expectation, Suspiria is built to be experienced, not analyzed. It’s a movie not for your brain, but your guts. Or at least for your primitive little lizard-brain, the part that fears the dark but still salivates a little at the shocking red of fresh-spilled blood.