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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review-- Suspiria

Well, guys. I totally blew it. It's only been a couple months and I've already found an error. In my review of Black Swan, I said:

[Black Swan] is also quite original. I mean, how many ballet horror movies can you name? Yeah, I couldn't think of any either.

Well, not only is that a sack of bull, but the movie in question was directed by Dario Argento, no less! This movie, called Suspiria, was released in the late 70s, and I'll be damned if Black Swan didn't get a lot of inspiration from this movie (as well as Perfect Blue, but I digress). So let's just dive into this puppy and see how it does.
And unfortunately, the program I use to get screencaps didn't like this movie for some reason, so the edges of the pictures will look jagged.
The name "Suspiria," as far as I can tell, means nothing. I don't know what it has to do with the movie, I don't know if it's in another language... no clue.

Story:
I will try to comment on the story without giving too much away. The plot doesn't actually reveal itself fully until near the end, and once it hits, it's a bit of a surprise. I wouldn't want to ruin that.
The story is about an American girl named Suzy traveling to Germany to attend a ballet school. When she arrives, she witnesses a young woman bursting out of the boarding building and run off into the night. The next day, that same young woman has been found murdered. Series after series of strange events occur, until Suzy's friend develops a suspicion that something more sinister is growing. Meanwhile, Suzy has been struck with strange patterns of fatigue and begins loosing patches of her memory. So what on earth is going on at this ballet school? Imagine young girls at a boarding, ballet school. Makes it a lot more ominous.

Now, this story is actually not too bad. It's almost like a fairy tale. If you ignore the gruesomely violent death scenes. Most important about this movie, and if you want it to be a bit more chilling, is to imagine the characters as children. No really, the characters already behave strangely. I actually popped onto imdb.com to see what they were saying, and, guess what, the movie was written to be about children! They only swapped out to adults so the movie wouldn't be banned. The script never changed, so adults are now speaking childishly.
Otherwise, there's not much to say about the story. It's almost like Rosemary's Baby tied in with The Chainsaw Massacre. That may not be the best example, but there you have it. This is movie is heavy, heavy, heavy on the gore, but definitely better than some of Dario Argento's other films, such as Phantom of the Opera. GAG ME WITH A SPOON. This movie is not too scary, but it's definitely suspenseful. If you don't know what's coming, you'll be in for a little surprise.

Characters:
The main character is named Suzy, and next in line would be her friend, Sara. These are both girls that go to the boarding/ballet school. Suzy gets tired real easily and is put on special diet, no doubt part of the evil presence's doing, and Sara is a bit paranoid. In fact, her psychiatrist speaks with Suzy at one point, making you wonder if this is all a big exaggeration by Sara.
The actress who plays Suzy is named Jessica Harper. It took me forever to realize where she was from so I did an search and she's Phoenix from Phantom of the Paradise! Hahaha, how about that? Anyway, she did a pretty decent job. She pulled off behaving like a little girl really well; plus, she looks a bit like a little girl! Costume crew did a great job with her hair and outfits to make her look a bit younger than she's supposed to be. Sometimes her acting was a bit over the top, but it wasn't too bad. I'm willing to forgive.

This story is not so much character driven as it is plot driven. You're not going to know all about Suzy's long-lost mother or Sara's super dark past.

Sets/Costumes:
Despite their dated look, I actually really liked their outfits. I know that's weird, but Suzy wears this lovely dress that makes her look amazing. The cut is not really in style anymore, but it looked awesome. For the ballet portions, everyone just wore leotards. Hard for that to ever be out.
Love this dress! Plus, check out this set!
The sets also feature really bright colors. These vary from bright red, blue, green, and sometimes just a white light. There's definitely a strong color scheme to the sets. I'm not sure if it's just spotlights or post-production that makes the colors, but I decided to add it on here.

 This really added to the surreal feeling of the movie and made it seem almost dreamlike. It definitely didn't belong in this dimension. I'm a bit tied with whether I enjoyed this effect or not. I'm going to say "like" because it brought the movie up a notch and made it different.

Music:
Wow, music. Well, there was this really annoying banshee music. And it felt like they played the same three pieces over and over during the movie. 

BUT....

The main theme is absolutely amazing. It's the perfect music for a horror movie. It sounds light and dainty, but so dark and eerie. I love it. Hands down one of the best horror themes and it's going on my iPod this Halloween for sure. You can listen to it here.

Camera:
Cinematography was great! No really, it was really well shot. Who knew a horror film could actually do a pretty decent job balancing action?
It's hard to tell here because it's a still picture, but the balance of light and dark, the balance of moving verus static. It's really well done. 
It's quite amazing. And if I noticed, it was probably doing a damn good job because I normally don't pay attention to these kinds of things. Then again, I am doing a review on this, so that may have changed the way I noticed things.

Ballet Presence:
 Okay, so there was almost no ballet. The actors didn't do their own dancing and when the did it was painful. Don't look at me like that! I mean it, they were en pointe but I don't think they had proper training judging by how some of them held themselves. Others did look like they knew what they were doing, but still, ballet was not a strong feature in this movie.

 To give the film credit, they filmed the ballet sequences rather nicely. I liked the balanced shots and how the camera moved in accordance with the dancers. Nice job! Though the writers, Argento and someone else, got some major facts wrong about ballet (for instance, you don't share pointe shoes! They are specifically for the dancer!), but it was nice overall. What little we got of it, anyway.

Overall Enjoyment:
Don't freak out... it's just red wine ;)
 I'm not going to lie: I enjoyed this movie. Quite a bit more than I expected to, actually. I even went into this with strong biases against Argento's work, but still got some entertainment out of it. Any movie that you go in hating and come out liking means they did something right, and I think that this movie deserves some credit for that. Is it kind of hokey? Oh yes. Is there much ballet? No. Did I at least enjoy myself and feel some relation to the movie? Yes. Still, this movie is pretty gory. Don't watch if you don't like that sort of thing.

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