31 Days of Halloween – Day 29 – Suspiria
Suspiria is effective in tone and mood, but color and weirdness are substituted for coherence. This Dario Argento masterpiece is a surreal experience and doesn’t skimp on the tension. It is loaded with metaphor and stuffed to the brim with imagery, but is often confusing. Colors coalesce and swirl, as if in a fairy tale, and not a lot of the events make sense. It sure does look amazing though. As far as I know, Suspiria’s technicolor representation of the supernatural is unique.
The story follows a girl named Suzy, who moves to Europe to board at a private ballet school. Strange stuff happens the minute this movie opens, and Suzy’s arrival in town represents her crossing over into the alien world of the supernatural. This supernatural is the power of a bunch of witches, who operate behind the scenes. Many of the details behind Suspiria are represented in some way by imagery or color. As she tries to get to school on a rainy night, Suzy is bathed in blue. Everything is blue. Red water splashes her taxi, possibly representing blood. The entire school exterior is RED. It screams of diabolic evil. I was half expecting Vincent Price to rush out the front door and laugh like an evil maniac. Yeah, it’s awesome.
I don’t think it’s any mistake that the story takes place in Germany, which gives the whole movie some sort of fascist or nazi suggestion. Suzy is not so much initiated into the witches coven as mind-control and watched. When she wants to live in town, events are manipulated so she has to move to the dormitory. Later, she is sick and is put on a strict diet administered by the evil, evil witches. She is given this red drink and strange food, which is obviously drugged. The drink represents a magic potion of some kind. Suzy later pours the red fluid down the drain, and it sticks to the white sink like a strange coating of oil or blood. Red represents the witch’s supernatural power. It is everywhere. On the building. In the rooms. On the walls. The drink is red. It is inescapable.
Many of the decorations and wallpaper in the school are there to represent the dizzying surreal world. Confusing geometry and strangely angled walls are ripped off from paintings by Escher. Suzy is lost in a confusing surrealist haze and can’t get out. There is reference to Escher’s Sky and Water (1938) on the walls, where you can see birds and fish. Escher’s famous lithograph shows birds descending into fish, which represents a gradual change in shape and a manipulation of reality, like living in a world that is not quite real. It is no accident that the wallpaper is both red and blue, the colors of the supernatural and surreal world.
The iris seems to play a special role in this world. This is what a crazed student saw before she tried to escape the school. She is later caught and murdered by a supernatural power. The iris seems to represent the ultimate power at the school, of the mistress and her two cohorts. Suzy hears about the iris at the beginning of the film, and figures out what it means at the end, when she sees the flowers on the wall and confronts the three witches.
In all, this is a great movie. It is surreal and strange, so it’s right up my alley. Everything seems bathed in color as well as sound, thanks to the music of Goblin, the guys from Dawn of the Dead. Here, they reinforce the otherworldly nature of the environment. There are plenty of things to look at, including good-looking ladies. There is a LOT of subtext in this movie, like lesbianism, fascism, surrealism, black magic, Hanzel & Gretel, and Snow White. Forget the metaphors and crap, the color and soundtrack alone make this a must-see movie. If nothing else, this movie always has something new for me to look at. Who doesn’t love good visuals?
31. Poltergeist (1982) vs Poltergeist (2015)
30. Blair Witch Project (1999)
29. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
28. The Wicker Man (1973) and The Wicker Man Remake
27. Tales from the Darkside, the Movie (1990)
26. Saw (2004)
25. The Prophecy (1995)
24. The Hills have Eyes (1977)
23. House of the Long Shadows (1983)
22. Creepshow (1982)
21. Phantasm (1979)
20. The Omen (1976) vs Damien: The Omen II
19. We Are Still Here (2015)
18. The Guest
17. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
15. The House that Dripped Blood (1971)
14. Army of Darkness (1992)
13. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
12. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)
11. Theater of Blood (1973)
10. House of Wax (1953) vs House of Wax (2005)
9. Hellraiser Inferno (2000)
8. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
7. The Changeling (1980)
6. The Eye (2002)
5. The Hitcher (1986)
4. Paranormal Activity (2007)
3. 28 Days Later (2003)
2. Suspiria (1977)
1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – This review will be published October 31st!