Marie vs. Horror

In preparation for the newest version of the story, Marie danced back 40 years to Dario Argento’s giallo classic Suspiria

Suspiria Art

When I commented to someone last week that I was planning to watch Dario Argento’s Suspiria before deciding whether to watch the new version due out in November, his response was “Oh but Suspiria isn’t really a horror film …”

Well I admit I wasn’t frozen to my seat in fear, but certain events are distinctly and definitely horrific and I’m not sure how anyone could deny that it fits the horror genre.

There is barely a storyline to try to follow, but it’s enough to know that American dancer Suzy (Jessica Harper) arrives at her new dance school in Germany, only to discover that strange, unsettling things are happening to the dancers. Suzy puzzles over events for a while and suffers through a number of them herself (ugh, maggots), but she has such an innocent demeanour and huge eyes that she is almost like a fairytale character – the little sister in the Hansel and Gretel story, for example, who is lured into the old woman’s elaborate gingerbread house only to discover that it’s a façade, and the woman really intends to kill and eat the young innocent.

The opening sequence immediately sets up the feeling of unease – just the very act of walking down the corridor out of the airport, from the red lighting into the torrential rain, is unsettling. The score is key in this; it’s unnerving, ethereal, and VERY LOUD! I’m not sure if it was the version I was watching, or something about the DVD itself, but the audio balance between music and dialogue was huge. As I was watching at home I was able to keep adjusting the volume so as not to annoy my neighbours, but had I been watching this in a cinema I might have found the score overwhelming. It definitely ramped up the unease, though.

Suspiria is an extremely beautiful film, and it’s perhaps my favourite thing about it. It’s obvious how much of an influence the film’s design has been on subsequent films around the world. The audacity of the lighting and colour palettes, sometimes changing multiple time mid-scene, is possibly something which affects some people as much as the sound design struck me. The walls are beautifully decorated, the door frames are topped with gorgeous curves and the ornaments on display are stunning.

 

Also stunning, but not in a good way, is the manner in which the violence against women is exaggerated. The attacks on the female victims are not straightforward. Argento feels the need to have his female victims be the victims of frenzied or multiple attacks, and we even pause at one point to see a heart being stabbed. It’s already been horrible enough without that thank you very much Dario. The few men that there are get off quite lightly as far as their manner of death is concerned.

The script provides some stilted dialogue, and even worse voice dubbing – always a possibility when the cast contains people from different countries who don’t speak the language of the film sufficiently well, but I don’t hold this against it.

I think it’s a very silly plot which is overly brutal in the way it treats its female deaths, but the visuals are – if you’ll forgive me – to die for.

The concludes the first season of Marie v. Horror.  Marie will be back soon with more…

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