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Suspiria

1977: The Year of Pop Culture it was
Part 1: Suspiria

A long time ago, in an
era far from today…
The Year was 1977: One of the significant years that ushered
in Popular Culture that we know and love, to the masses be it blockbuster
films, innovative music, trends and of course Television.
Let’s look back at what is cool or not so cool milestones of
pop culture 40 years ago shall we?
In a mood for a High concept spine tingling thriller
imported from Italy? Well, look no further!
Released on August 12, 1977 and directed by Italian horror
legend, Dario Argento, Suspiria is a suspense fright fest about an American
ballet student, Suzy Bannon (Jessica Harper) who travels to Germany to attend
some prestigious ballet academy. When arriving late on a stormy night, no one
lets her enter the crimson colored building, suddenly she sees Pat Hingle(Eva
Axén), another student, fleeing from the school and into the woods. As the
frantic Pat reaches her apartment, she begins to see bizarre images and is
brutally murdered.
The following day, Suzy is admitted to her new school, but
has a difficult time settling in. She hears noises, and often feels ill. As
more mysterious deaths and horrific situations occur, Suzy uncovers a
terrifying secret history within the European dance school, but will such revelations
of a sinister coven result at the cost of her life?
After eight years since I last seen Argento’s Occult opus, I
decided to give it another watch especially since its 40th anniversary has
passed and here are my summations:
I found the death scenes to be minimal at best, but when it
happens, there’s that buildup of tension prior to the kill. This could be
attributed to the film’s score which I shall elaborate further. As for the
dialog, well it comes off a bit generic but at times but hey, that’s the
Seventies! Its possibly due to the English dubbing along with unsynchronized
audio-especially when you have a handful of supporting cast members from
different countries and of course, different languages.
Argento made it quite obviously clear who is behind the
mystery of supernatural occurrences within the ballet school, but delves
further in during the 3rd act. Despite the film’s uneven pacing,
questionable edits, unanswered inquiries and an abrupt conclusion, Argento’s
Suspiria is still a seminal thriller, after 40 years. This, in part is,
courtesy of the amazing aesthetics rich with dynamic cinematic techniques, set
pieces and architecture. Whether it’s the stained-glass windows, wall decor or
that mysterious lobby, all
encapsulated within some red artifice that serves as the
main setting for the narrative. The implementation of vibrant saturation and
stark contrasts, is another innovative method utilized as a means of dramatic
effect. The 10 second scene of Pat running through the woods, and a few first
perspective camera shots have not gone unnoticed for bold experimentation of
cinematic methods.  Suspiria, simply put,
is a work of art. Literally!

 

Now for one of the biggest highlights if not the highlight
of Suspiria goes to the Progressive Rock Band Goblin’s phenomenal soundtrack
which is nothing short of fucking brilliance! The main theme can easily be
confused as some fairy tale inspired sound at first, but as soon as the banging
drums start to ring, it’s a sign of bad things to come. I can’t lie, the
soundtrack is one of the creepiest and innovative tracks I have heard from the
horror genre and mind you, Goblin’s score predates what would be future
offerings from John Carpenter! Goblin’s contribution adds the precise amount of
tension, suspense and dread during the film’s more pinitol scenarios. I loved
the vocal wailing and chants i.e. “Lalalalalalala..” and most specifically-
“WAIT” mainly because it sounds like some supernatural order to kill!
Argento’s movie is nothing short of a cult classic if not
masterpiece. It has influenced a few horror films starting with The Beyond, House by the Cemetery and if you ask me, it easily outshines The
Shining! It may not be the Giallo that many are accustomed to, but with its
high concept premise, Suspiria is a brilliant beast! The use of vibrant colors
served as an inspiration for one of my favorite amines, The Soultaker. Now I’ve
seen my fair share of Dario’s films and to be frank, Suspiria, is arguably his
best work. When watching, make sure you turn up the surround sound when playing
this late at night.
Stalks, out!

 

Now you know: Real
Trivia Info!
Witches Brew
Dario Argento was inspired to make this film by stories of
partner Daria Nicolodi’s grandmother, who claimed to have fled from a German
music academy because witchcraft was being secretly practiced there.
World’s Oldest
professional
The woman playing Helna Markos is not credited. According to
Jessica Harper, the woman was a 90 year old ex-hooker Argento found on the
streets of Rome.
“It was just a
dream…”
The film’s finale was inspired by a dream that co-writer
Daria Nicolodi once had. In the dream she said she had encountered an invisible
witch and, most bizarrely, there was a panther in the room with her that
suddenly exploded. The dream was written into the film, but it’s a porcelain
panther that explodes.
Nods to Gobs
The voice heard whispering on the soundtrack is that of
Goblin band member Claudio Simonetti.
Simonetti stated that much of what he whispers on the music score is
just gibberish. Dario Argento helped compose the score with the band Goblin and
played it at full blast on set to unnerve the actors and elicit truly
frightened performances.
Suffering for one’s
art
Stefania Casini had a difficult time shooting her death
scene. Though the “barbed wire” that she falls into was fake, the
coils of wire still got wrapped around her tightly and pinched her skin
painfully.
Rice, Rice Baby..
For the wide shots of the ‘maggots’ falling from the ceiling
the crew would drop gains of rice down onto the actresses from above.
Inspired by a Disney
Cartoon?
Dario Argento had cinematographer Luciano Tovoli watch Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs to have him model the color scheme of that film for
Suspiria.
Explosive Finale
Jessica Harper said that the most frightening scene in the
film for her was the grand finale where everything explodes and shatters around
her as she flees the academy. Harper said that the rigged explosions where
quite unnerving as they were placed close to her on the set. Suspiria’s finale
was inspired by a dream that Daria Nicolodi had.
The first of
Argento’s Trilogy
Because the Three Mothers concept is at the heart of its
mythology, Suspiria has offered an opportunity to create a loose trilogy of
horror films, with each focusing on a different “Mother” in a different
location. Following Suspiria, Argento wasted little time in making the second
installment. Inferno (1980),
chronicles an encounter with Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness. It took
nearly three decades for Argento to finally get around to it. The Three Mothers
trilogy finally concluded in 2007 with The Mother of Tears, starring Argento
and Nicolodi’s daughter, Asia Argento.
The ”R” Word
And as with most popular films or classics, Hollywood has
optioned Suspiria as the next victim of Remakes! Suspiria featuring Dakota
Fanning and Chole Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Carrie and The Equalizer)
has been in the works for several years, and production
finally began last year., the film has been planned for a 2017 release to
commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original. When asked about the remake
in a 2016 interview, Argento revealed that he had not been consulted on the
project in any way, and argued against the film being made at all.
“Well, the film has a
specific mood,” Argento told IndieWire. “Either you do it exactly the same
way—in which case, it’s not a remake, it’s a copy, which is pointless—or, you
change things and make another movie. In that case, why call it Suspiria?”
*Fingers
crossed for at least a decent adaptation*

 

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!

 

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