Suspiria (1978)

Reviewed By Jack Sommersby
Posted 11/24/08 09:12:23

"Looks Great But is Most Definitely Less-Filling"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Another case of an overrated Argento entry that elicits more in the way of guffaws than screams.

Despite some occasional interesting moments, the Italian horror film Suspiria is possessive of a truly awful screenplay and botched execution, both of which the well-regarded Dario Argento is responsible for. It's a classic case of manner over matter, with Argento trying to tell the film mostly through visual means and laying a giant-sized cinematic egg in the process because we could care less about either the boring heroine or the futile goings-on. The paper-thin story has something to do with a young American woman arriving in Rome to study at a prestige dance academy only to soon discover that its staff is composed of a coven of witches who're knocking off those who stumble upon their secret. Actually, it's quite easy for the students to catch on being that the villains are more than a little bit uncouth in carrying out their rituals -- they're more overt than covert about it, and so much so that the audience is left baffled why there's so much as a single student not privy to their secret (which, mind you, is a curiously dunderheaded way of retaining the dancing talent). Heavy footsteps and suspicious noises at night are just a couple of the stock horror elements Argento childishly indulges in, with the intentionally-lurid, bright-colored cinematography by Luciano Tovoli overwhelming the proceedings so much so in that we're constantly made aware of the film as such -- it's reminiscent of the overly-stylized lighting that another Italian cinematographer, Dante Spinotti, garnished upon Michael Mann's serial-killer thriller Manhunter. Suspiria lacks both tension and scares, not to mention nonsubmental dialogue and credible performances and even some semblance of brain cells in light of the quintessentially stupid things the victims indulge in before their untimely demises so as to make the teenager characters in the Friday the 13th series come off as Einsteinian by comparison. Granted, Argento's work is looser here than it was in the painfully-overdeliberate Deep Red though it still involves the camera annoyingly zooming in and pointing out the obvious at way too many turns just like it did in his mediocre Tenebre. All in all, it's an unfrightening, unsurprising film experience by a giallo filmmaker who unfortunately blows more cold than hot and displays zero ability in this case at shaping individual sequences for even moderate effect. Truth be told, an hour-long tax seminar would be more enthralling.

Check out Argento's underrated "Sleepless" instead.

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