By Jerome Reuter
Without a doubt, Suspiria is my favorite horror film of all time. There’s really nothing else like it. It’s a baroque blend of color, atmosphere, and imagery. The magnum opus of Dario Argento, and one of the high water marks of Italian horror. Here are my 5 favorite sequences, from this masterpiece.
5) The Arrival
Much like the opening to 8 1/2, the films first few moments establish the theme. From Suzy Bannion arriving at the airport, to her arriving at the school. We’re instantly swept up into a mysterious world, one that we can’t quite get a grasp on. As our Snow White steps into the rainstorm, Argento establishes one of the films central themes. She is the stranger in unfamiliar territory, whisked away into an unknown world. As the audience, we’re as puzzled as she is, upon the sight of the mysterious girl running though the woods. You might also note, one of Argento’s most famous tropes during this sequence, the flashback of dialogue. A troubled young woman at the academy gives Suzy a clue, one that she doesn’t understand at first.
Much later in the film it’s revealed, to herself, as well as the audience. This trope is present in Tenebrae, Deep Red, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, and even Opera. Despite its repetition, it helps build suspense to a fever pitch.
4) The Death Of Helena Markos
Although the ending is somewhat abrupt, it’s also perfect. Throughout Suspiria, there’s a consistent feel of wonder. We’re never given a full understanding of the events in question, until the films conclusion. Unlike the other two entries in the “3 Mothers” trilogy, Helena Markos has the appearance of a witch who’s been dead for 500 years.
Everything that’s been building up to this moment, pays off. Like a Giallo film, the mystery is finally answered. In a fitting conclusion to this dark fairy tale, the heroine destroys the source of evil. This is what Suspira is, a dark fairy tale for all time.
3)The Room Of Barbed Wire
The one thing that gives this film it’s distinction, is its color. Argento’s brilliant use of 35mm technicolor cinematography, is nothing short of genius. Goblin’s musical score, accents these scenes perfectly. When Suzy’s friend Sarah meets her untimely demise, both of these factors contribute, to one of the films most memorable scenes.
As an unseen force of evil pursues her, an intricate web of color is woven onto the screen. Between that, and the accompanying music, were drawn into a realm of pure suspense. Everything ends abruptly, with Sarah falling into a web of barbed wire. The scene is lighted with a bizarre blue color, and takes us completely by surprise.
The scenes conclusion, is a tip of the hat to Argento’s Giallo days. The blade held by a mysterious black gloved killer, bringing a young woman to her death. This whole sequence, if anything else, shows Argento’s ability to combine the two genres together.
2) Stained Glass Hanging
Without a doubt, this is the most memorable scene from the film. Even someone who hasn’t seen this in its entirety, is familiar with this scene. Part of the first act, a young woman is disemboweled, and hung, her body crashing through a stained glass window. Much like the rest of the film, it’s the color that gives it a sort of baroque beauty. An excellent contrast of red and white, that catches the eye of anyone watching.
However, it’s the mystery of the scene I find intriguing. It’s still early in the film, and we’re still trying to wrap out heads around what’s occurring. It’s a sequence that takes us completely by surprise, and draws us into the story. It also makes us wonder, just what else is in store for us.
Trivia note: Next time you watch this scene, pay close attention to the blood splatter on the floor. If you pay close attention, you can see the outline of a witch.
1) The Dog Attack
This might come as a surprise, but this is my favorite scene. I’ll explain why, for those of you who might be curious. This scene shows Argento’s depth as a filmmaker. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, real horror is what you don’t see. This scene captures that, and so much more. This scene was so well done, Lucio Fulci would recreate it in The Beyond.
The blind piano player, alone with his dog late at night. He stands between two buildings, symbolizing the realm of the known, and the unknown. The terror of the scene is captured, in the blind man’s paranoia of what he can’t see around him. As the audience, were swept into this paranoia, yet still left in the dark.
At the scenes conclusion, his own seeing eye dog turns on him. I’ve always seen this as an excellent bit of foreshadowing. Students rely on teachers, just as a blind man relies on a guide. In some ways, this scene establishes what the teachers have in store for a few of their students. (Suzy and Sarah in particular)
It’s the subtlety of this scene that makes it memorable, at least for me.