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Suspiria | review | horror | dvd | Lollipop
by John Bikowski
When I was a kid, my Aunt used to catch all the horror movies that I wasn't allowed to see and then she would give me the play-by-play. She saw Suspiria in 1977 and told me all about this witch's tale. The images she created in my eight-year-old head lay dormant for over a decade until I was able to see the film for myself. I was mesmerized. The colors, the blood, and the music... I was haunted. Through the years, I've come to know Suspiria and other Dario Argento films inside and out. So when Anchor Bay scheduled the release of this Italian masterpiece, I was ecstatic. The company produced two types of disc packages: The regular issue DVD, which is reviewed here, and a special numbered edition that comes with the soundtrack CD and an extra 25th Anniversary extras disc.
The regular release is still a great buy because it comes loaded with mouth-watering extras. Not only do you get the 98-minute, uncut, widescreen, THX-enhanced film, but it comes with theatrical trailers, TV spots, a Daemonia (Goblin spin-off band) music video, a poster and still gallery, talent bios, and language selection. Director Argento is famous for his use of imagery and set pieces to create an environment that feels like a dream. This disc is so sharp and expertly-remastered that I'll go out on a limb and say that Suspiria is one of the top ten DVDs that will ever come out. If you haven't seen it for a while, or (shame!) if you've never seen it at all, you owe it to yourself watch it with a decent sound system. Flick off the lights, sit back, and let the film cast its spell.
The story follows an American student named Suzy Banyon who is studying dance at the Tanz Academie in Germany. Upon her arrival in a torrential downpour, she witnesses another student fleeing in terror from the school grounds. This frantic girl makes it to her friend's apartment where she tells of her plans to drop out because of bizarre happenings. However, the shaken girl gets too close to the window and a hairy female arm flies in and uses the girl's face to break through the glass. The unseen assailant then embarks on a stabbing frenzy that culminates with the skewering of the girl's exposed heart. As if that wasn't enough, the corpse is then hung around the neck with a wire and tossed through an ornate skylight. Her fall is abruptly cut short as the wire snaps its full length. Then the camera pans down her wide-eyed, blood-dripping form to show us her friend who was cut to ribbons by the falling glass and metal. Whew!
The story unfolds drenched in virtuoso camerawork and panic-inducing music played so loudly that it almost becomes a part of the tale. Argento reportedly played the eerie music on the set while filming to keep the actors on edge.
Suzy meets many strange characters at the school, including Sara, who quickly becomes her confidant. Sara explains that she has been investigating the school's dark secret. A great moment has the two girls in a bedroom bathed in green light as Sara seductively whispers, "Suzy... do you believe in... witches?" The moment she says "witches," the screen goes black for effect and then returns. Creepy little touches of style like that make the film a work of art. It becomes apparent that the school is indeed a front for a witches' coven, and that Sara and Suzy know too much. Sara is subsequently attacked and she attempts to escape through a high window. She jumps down into another darkened room that's filled wall-to-wall with barbed wire. Hopelessly entangled, she is easy prey for the razor-wielding killer who brutally gashes her jugular. Suzy begins to piece together clues and finds a hidden doorway to the heart of the coven. Here she comes face-to-face with Helena Marcos, the evil black witch. Suzy is left to stab for her life as the film concludes in flames and destruction. No DVD collection is complete without this film.