An American ballet student ( Jessica Harper) arrives at a German airport ready to be taxied off to a prestigious dance school. Everything is normal. Except nothing is. Rain slashes out of the night sky. Automatic doors swipe violently open and shut. Strange lights turn ordinary faces into ghouls…
Climaxing in a surreal, startling double-murder, Suspiria’s unforgettable opening is a discordant aria of unease. Actually, it sets the bar so high that giallo stylist Dario Argento rarely meets it again until the intense finale of detonating chandeliers and freakish visions.
Argento’s masterpiece is a movie in which nothing and nobody makes sense. The script blathers all over the simple premise (the ballet academy is actually an ancient coven of witches) and the performances are sketchy as hell. And none of it matters. Like few other movies, Suspiria only makes sense to the senses – it’s an arthouse torture garden dressed in fevered atmospherics.
“Fear is a 370-degree centigrade body temperature,” Argento once said of his hyperreal Technicolor showstopper. “With Suspiria, I wanted 400 degrees.” Told you it didn’t make sense. But to see it, to hear it, to feel it, is to understand it.
This fresh hi-def scrub-up is the work of home entertainment label Cine Excess, which declares that it’s ‘Taking Trash Seriously’. Don’t expect eye-popping new details, but those vibrant reds, greens, golds and blues are handled well and only sometimes feel overcooked. No flaring or bleeding, no visible defects and a solid level of HD sharpness. Anchor Bay’s excellent 25th Anniversary Edition DVD set the benchmark for Suspiria on disc – and this new Blu edition doesn’t shame it.
While nothing on the package beats the awesome doc on the Anchor Bay three-discer, Cine Excess have rustled up some new bonus bits (one of them a promo about themselves admittedly). Still, top UK horror critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman are the perfect co-hosts on the commentary, containing not a millisecond of dead air. Newman provides the keen critique. Jones unloads a wealth of personal insight from his long friendship with Argento.
Next up is 34-minute featurette ‘Fear At 400 Degrees’, where Argento bats away accusations of misogyny (“I love women, so I kill them more spectacularly”) and voices his regrets (“I couldn’t fully express the lesbian theme”).
Film theorist Dr Patricia MacCormack does the academic heavylifting on ‘Suspiria Perspectives’, giving us a whistlestop tour of giallo and the Italian gothic horror traditions. At 40 minutes, it’s a bit dry and overlappy. And while it mentions that a remake is in the offing, naturally, no one discusses the fact it’s Pineapple Express man David Gordon Green directing. We frankly can’t imagine...
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