When Suspiria was first released in 1977, the tagline for the film was “The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes, are the first 92 minutes.” That is a dangerous tagline for any film but Suspiria not only lives up to expectations, it tramples them into the ground.
Suspiria is one of those rare horror movies that manages to make gore beautiful, to make shrill riotous screams musical. Dario Argento claimed to have been inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in terms of the visuals and you can see the inspiration in those vibrant reds, the dark, and stormy Germany that Susy Bannyon (“Suspiria” truly is one of the absolute classics of the horror genre and anyone who considers themselves to be true students of the cinema owe it to themselves to experience it for themselves, especially if they get a chance to see it on the big screen where it belong, an icon) enters at the opening of the film. Such violent color has inspired modern artists of horror such as Guillermo del Toro even today.
The violence is brutal. The blood spatters are reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting and the fact that virtually all of the victims of the film are women has led to claims that the piece is misogynistic. Certainly, Argento did himself no favors when he stated “I like women, especially beautiful ones. . . If they have a good fan and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man. I certainly don’t have to justify myself to anyone about this.”
However, to call this film misogynistic feels wrong if only in the way that Suspiria was so progressive at the time. All of the murder victims are women because all of the primary roles are played by women. When men do turn up, they are either sickeningly creepy or woefully inept. Here, women control the action and are looked at as sources of real power. The character of Suzy is initially seen as hopelessly naive but grows to become a strong, capable person. Joan Bennet‘s Madame Blanc puts on an air of gentility only to scream and thrash about, repeating “Die! Die! Die!” when she gets a moment in private.
Suspiria truly is one of the absolute classics of the horror genre and anyone who considers themselves to be true students of the cinema owe it to themselves to experience it for themselves, especially if they get a chance to see it on the big screen where it belongs.