ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Bucket List Movie #462: Suspiria (1977)

Updated on October 16, 2014
Dario Argento.
Dario Argento. | Source

Welcome to another Horror-tober edition of Bucket List Movies, and today's film is made by Italian director Dario Argento. Argento at his peak was highly praised for his striking visual style in such classics as The Bird with Crystal Plumage, and today's BLM, 1977's Suspiria. Make no mistake, Suspiria is an incredibly gorgeous movie, every other scene swathed in poisonous reds, ghoulish greens, and sunny yellows. Even amidst all the horror and bloody violence, Suspiria is beautiful to look at. If Vincente Minnelli and John Carpenter collaborated on a film, it would like Suspiria.

The reason I'm rambling on about how pretty Suspiria looks is to bring up another point about Argento: for all the praise he receives for his art direction, he is frequently criticized for lacking subtlety, and his movies often get slammed for pedestrian stories that are sometimes aided by the visuals, but sometimes not. This brings me to a question I've been mulling over for quite some time: why is it so hard, if not impossible, for directors to have it both ways and have a balance of style and substance? I'm aware that can't always be the case, and it usually depends on the story the directors and screenwriters want to tell, but why can't they have their cake and eat it, too?

Too many movies, in an attempt to be taken seriously, I guess, are saturated in brown, beige, or any boring neutral out there. Likewise, if movies do have color, that's often directly proportional to how stupid or shallow they'll be. Suspiria, alas, falls into the latter category. It looks glorious, but it has an unoriginal, by-the-numbers story, clunky plot devices that would get you kicked out of any decent creative writing class, and cardboard cutout characters played by actors who seem baffled as to what they should be doing. Suspiria is like that pretty, vapid classmate who inspires the backhanded description, "She's nice, but…"

Hate the color red? Then you're going to really hate this movie.
Hate the color red? Then you're going to really hate this movie. | Source

Suspiria tells the story of fresh-faced American Susie (Jessica Harper) who arrives at a prestigious ballet academy in Germany during the type of rainstorm that only happens in the movies. She spies a bedraggled, hysterical young woman stumbling out of the school and mumbling incoherently. Susie is understandably perturbed by this, and is further perturbed when the poor girl, whose name is Pat, is reported dead the next day. We get to see how Pat died, and, well, it brings to mind the type of music videos Tipper Gore would campaign to be yanked off the air ten years later.

That's only the beginning; in time, Susie has to contend with creepy servants, enigmatic teachers, maggots that fall from the ceiling, the blind pianist getting mauled and eaten by his guide dog, and her roommate Sarah mysteriously disappearing. When Susie gets in touch with Sarah's shrink (Udo Keir), she learns the school was founded by-gasp!-a witch and that-gasp!-they might still be carrying on her dirty work!

Screw the supernatural, I'm just gonna cut ya!
Screw the supernatural, I'm just gonna cut ya! | Source

Yup, Suspiria is basically your average, run-of-the-mill, hidden witches' coven story, nothing more, nothing less. Yes, it has the kind of stylized violence that would make Quentin Tarantino weep with envy, and it feels years ahed of its time in terms of visuals and editing, but that doesn't make up for the fact that Suspiria holds few surprises and clumsy storytelling. For instance, when Susie arrives at the school, a mysterious voice on the intercom tells her she's a stranger and to go away. Later, Sarah reveals to Susie that she was the voice on the intercom, because she was upset at Pat leaving. Normally, this would be a bom bom BOMMMMMM! moment, but it isn't. There is no shock or suspense, it is handled in a matter-of-fact fashion, and it contributes nothing to the story overall. What was Sarah hoping to accomplish? Who knows? Is she part of the evil coven? Nope, she's still Susie's friend. What was the point of that exchange? How should I know?

Jessica Harper as Susie.
Jessica Harper as Susie. | Source

It doesn't help that the characters are one-note at best. I wanted to be invested in Susie's plight, but she's so drab that I just couldn't. I'll admit I've only seen Jessica Harper in an episode of Starman and as Mark Linn-Baker's utterly forgettable love interest in My Favorite Year. For all I know, maybe she's an amazing actress, but I have yet to see her in a project that shows her talent. I think she's part of a line of scruffily attractive brunettes who become "It girls" in each generation, but, because of Hollywood's preference to more polished blondes, have stars that burn fast, then cool to a soft glow just as quickly: Ali McGraw in the 60s and 70s, Jami Gertz in the 80s, and Jordana Brewster in the 90s and 2000s.

Joan Bennet's final movie. Eh, better than the crap Joan Crawford was in.
Joan Bennet's final movie. Eh, better than the crap Joan Crawford was in. | Source

Back to the main gripe, which is that Suspiria has too many questions that are left unanswered. Mind you, I don't take issue with films that don't answer all your questions, as long as it's thought-provoking as a result (Todd Haynes's Safe comes to mind). But, sweet mother of Moses, Suspiria is just a silly slasher movie that looks like a music video, it's not supposed to be thought-provoking! Come on, Dario Argento, you're not exactly making The Vanishing here! How was Susie able to pick up what Pat was saying, even though it was pouring down rain, they weren't that close together, and Pat wasn't even speaking that clearly? Is the guard dog possessed by the coven, or is he an evil entity unto himself? Isn't it a little distracting how some of the minor characters are made up to look like cartoon villains? And, most importantly… what in the ever loving hell is the coven doing at that school?! Are they harvesting souls? Sacrificing virginal students? Trying to get new recruits? What are they doing there? What was the point of that dumb little conflict of whether Susie lives in an apartment or at the school? The other students aren't being randomly picked off, they're only in danger if they start investigating the strange events! Other than that, they're perfectly safe! For that matter, why have a ballet academy as a front? Wouldn't it make more sense to meet in private so as not to arouse suspicion? I mean, missing students and violent incidents at a prestigious dance school aren't going to go unnoticed! People aren't that dumb and oblivious!

That peacock can't be up to any good.
That peacock can't be up to any good. | Source

See why most slasher movies leave me cold? Suspiria might be better than your average slasher flick, but that isn't saying very much. If you have a higher tolerance for style completely devoid of substance, then maybe Suspiria will hold your interest more than it held mine.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)