No 312 - Suspiria
Director - Dario Argenta
This is not going to be as epic a blog as I rustled up for Donnie Darko, as this film didn't lure me in in quite the same way. However, let us begin this discussion on Dario Argenta's 'Suspiria' a hokey and 70s horror film that is somewhat camp in its naffness.
The film bodes well in the opening scenes, mainly because it has my favourite actress of the 70s in the lead role. Ladies and Gentleman, may I introduce the mighty Jessica Harper. Or as I choose to call her - Phoenix.
Now, the thing I have found with Miss Harper is that she appears in some bad films. Sometimes these films are so bad that they transcend their rubbishness and enter genius - by which I mean go and watch The Phantom of the Paradise. Right Now.
Sometimes the films are just bad..... (sorry Shock Treatment, but you're nigh on unwatchable).
So whilst I was excited to see her in the film, it set the tone.... I wasn't hoping for a brilliant brilliant film.
The film is about Suzy Bannion (Harper) who joins a ballet school in Germany only to find that it is run by a coven of witches who have a taste for blood.
The acting is not brilliant, and it is made worse by the oddest dubbing I have ever seen.
Jessica Harper keeps her own voice however all the other characters appear to have been dubbed.
If it isn't dubbing then the sound control for the voices is appalling, it provides no sense of context. The voices don't echo. The voices don't get fainter as someone travels away. There is no doppler shift (my goodness... I never thought I'd be using that as a valid criticism of a film!).
All the voices seem very alienating, but eventually you get used to that and get into the film. However this strange sound structure opens up an even stranger score. The score is bonkers!
It begins quite common - your average plinky plonky synthy synthy 70s score. Like John Carpenter....
However, then all the weirdness kicks in. For reasons unknown, the score is accompanied by Gremlins singing along. I mean seriously. Click this link. Listen to the song... it sounds like ruddy singing gremlins!
It is a shame that the music is so rubbish because there are the occasional tense moment which is slightly ruined by the singing gremlins. The idea that at night the witches prowl through the school to prey on the students... THAT is scary and whilst the attacks are occasionally a bit dated looking, the horror is there.
I think Dario Argento was probably a big influence on things such as the Saw franchise. Let us look at two deaths in the film as case studies.
Firstly - The film's first Death scene.
Lets ignore the weird hairy arm that bursts out of nowhere... The scene itself is actually quite brutal and savage. The moment that I particularly like is when the victim has been so mutilated that her still beating heart is exposed, only for the knife to slip into the heart. All of this resulting in the twitching body being hanged. It is dark dark dark. It is bloody and violent but also sickly amusing. Very much Saw.
The sick amusement in the deaths is made all the more clear in the next death scene I wish to look at... the pursuit through the school:
It is a cruel humour that means the viewer watches the chase and the victim getting more and more desperate in her plight to escape. When she finally escapes through the window, she plummets into a room full of razor wire. It has the same teasing complexity that later overtakes plot within the Saw franchise.
As you can see from the film clips above, postmodernism has not been kind to this film. It is hard to take the lurid red blood (or the lurid red bulbs which illuminate the whole film in glorious brothel shades), the strange score and voice work or the wooden acting without thinking of Garth Merenghi.
Now, I want to state this isn't a review. My blogs are just my ponderous thoughts and opinions, and my opinion is thusly. This film hasn't aged well and sadly falls somewhere in the middle of things. It isn't a very good film but it isn't bad enough to become entertaining. It is just a dated and slightly ridiculous horror... and makes me more confused as to why In Bruges isn't in the list.