After watching Neon Demon (which I loved) the other day, I had a craving to re-watch Suspiria and it was better than I remembered.
I’m not saying anything revolutionary by praising this movie; its look and sound are cited as inspiration for a ton of American horror “originals” (like Halloween) and this movie is probably what comes to mind for a lot of people when they think of “cult” horror that isn’t piece-of-shit grindhouse exploitation. It has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and I would bet my soul that there are film classes with this on the syllabus. I am not the only person who likes this movie for the reasons I do.
The movie is “about” an American named Suzy who enrolls at a prestigious ballet academy in Germany. The director is a witch and the academy is just a front to presumably stock a stable of virgin girls to be sacrificed for Satanic rituals; all the instructors are in on it. In between recitals, the faculty drinks blood and chants and stuff. There are some murders and lightning. That’s pretty much it. The aforementioned plot points happen over and over to the sound of deafening prog-rock while a rotation of primary colors is projected on everything.
The movie is good, but doesn’t have a lot of the things that make a movie “good.”
Like Neon Demon, this movie is more about maintaining a look/feel than about maintaining a plot. There is a saturation of color in this movie that puts Wes Anderson to shame; this is all in the name of atmosphere, not story. The result is a maximizing of emotion/dread while the story, which doesn’t matter at all, hangs in the background. The story doesn’t even make fucking sense. Most of the important exposition comes from a psychologist who wrote a book on the psychology behind being a supernatural entity. Suz tracks him down at a psychology convention, as if this guy who writes about the psychological make-up of witches and demons would be a respected authority somehow! He explains the psychology of witches to Suzy (and the audience) along with everything else that happens in this movie including a detailed history of the until-now hidden/unknown villain, a witch named Helena Markos.
The soundtrack is unique and overpowering. It will remind you of John Carpenter. There are loud synths and scary noises. It absolutely drowns out everything else that’s happening.
I love the characters in this movie. We have The Neo-Nazi Instructor, The Romanian with False Teeth, The Headmistress Who is a Bitch about Everything, The Poor Blind Guy who is Obviously Gonna Die, and many others. However, the acting is pretty awful.Everyone working on the film all spoke different languages, so there are a bunch of scenes where actors literally don’t know what any of their fellow actors are saying, so they just deliver their lines bluntly while trying to look assertive. But they all look great! This is a fitting metaphor for the film.
You gotta see it.
Dracula 3D: D+
This is a retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic with some added nudity, carnage, and a Dracula who looks about as threatening as an H&R Block employee.
The villagers who, in Stoker’s novel, were limited to being terrified background fixtures are more prominent in Argento’s retelling. They have secret meetings that reveal that they live in an uneasy alliance with Dracula. Dracula builds schools for them and loans them money with the understanding that he can eat anyone anytime he wants. As you might expect, some people aren’t really into this arrangement but insubordination is met with decapitation and/or a jugular extraction so for the most part, everyone plays ball.
There’s no England in this one. Harker, Mina, Lucy, Renfield, they all go to the Carpathian Mountains and get fucked with by Dracula, who looks like he’s modeling pea-coats for JC Penny. His hillbilly/gypsy/whatever accolades are an added threat. Van Helsing shows up, played by everyone’s favorite Dutch psychopath, Rudger Hauer. SIT THE FUCK DOWN, HUGH JACKMAN. He avoids a lot of attacks, wields crucifixes, and delivers his lines like a drunk Christopher Walken.
Harker gets turned into a vampire and there are a half dozen scenes where young actresses unburden their breasts from the oppression of constrictive corsets. One of these actresses is the director’s daughter, but you aren’t allowed to find that awkward because this is art!
The story loosely follows the original with the aforementioned alterations being the most significant. Dracula also showcases some new powers:
- The ability to turn into an owl
- The ability to turn into a swarm of house flies
- The ability to turn into a giant praying mantis
- The ability to teleport
- The ability to deliver telekinetic choke-slams
- The ability to look like an innocuous grocery store clerk
The special effects are cheap and include one of my pet peeves: CGI blood. The acting is mediocre and there aren’t any interesting twists on the story. All in all, this was a pointless, disappointing movie from Argento, whom, like I have said, I hate talking shit about. This is devoid of suspense or scares. You’re better off watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula if you want to see something interesting done with the original source material.
Inferno (1980): B
This is the second movie in Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy, these three movies about witches. The first one is really good, this second one is pretty good, and the third is notoriously shitty.
Evil spirits that take the form of girls from the 1980’s nightclub scene terrorize American dipshit Mark as he walks around Rome (and later New York) with this stupid mustache on his face, partially paralyzed by all the sudden attention he is receiving from spirit women and real women all at once. “Way to go, Mark!” he must be saying to himself at one point, while these incredibly white Paula Abdul back-up dancer looking ladies stare at him like he’s a piece of meat. I mean, look at the image I posted for this review. How is poor Mark going to pay attention in his stupid class when this Bond villain / Cyndi Lauper clone suddenly materializes? Answer: he isn’t. He is pretty alright with it until like a dozen stabbings happen.
He comes to New York to visit his sister Rose who suspects that she is living in a haunted apartment that was once home to an evil witch. Mark narrowly avoids being stabbed in Rome and then comes to New York where he narrowly avoids being stabbed again. Most of the movie involves sniffing around for the truth, sniffing that is punctuated with stabbings and maulings, narrowly avoided stabbings and maulings, and appearances by various female members of the New Kids on the Block fanclub.
Did I mention that there are stabbings? There are. We get multiple knifings to death and cat scratching to death that occur in typical overly-gory Argento fashion. There are some funny underwater dead bodies. Mysterious hooded strangers and a flock of Madonna stunt doubles everywhere.
There is an attempted lethal injection, which I LOVE in horror movies. It’s like when someone is stuck with a hypodermic needle, that gives the filmmakers carte balanche to do any crazy shit they want to them. Veins protrude, people turn different colors, or there is crazy black mouth blood. But, sadly, the needle never meets its mark.
The end is really fun too.
The movie has its downs, I suppose. Acting level: infomercial. The blood is some goofy-ass kool-aid looking shit (like most Argento) but the kill scenes are classic.
Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005): C-
More like “Do You Like Made-for-TV-Bullshit?”
When a myopic Italian film student named Julio realizes his life is a Hitchcock movie, paranoia and delirium take him over and he becomes obsessed with figuring out what the hell is happening to him. What was he obsessed with before all this? Hitchcock movies! Man, what a mess.
It hurts me to talk shit about Argento. I feel pain while doing it. That’s how much I love this guy. This movie comes from a period in Argento’s career that I refer to as “The Stretch of Time in Which Argento Made Garbage Movies.” None of his trademarks are in this movie except really overt vocal dubbing and a crop of breasts. There is minimal gore. No one crashes through a window. No one with black leather gloves runs around molesting people. It looks like an after school special about not doing drugs where you can just tell all the actors are virgins.
This stretch of bad Argento movies fucking depress me. Imagine your favorite musician spends a decade not playing music. Instead, he just practices getting really good at using those gloves with light-up fingertips to make trippy light patterns that only look cool if you are 16 and at a rave. Makes me sick.
The movie has virtually no signature Argento. But you know what this movie does have? A fucking stupid moped/car chase. Probably the worst one I have ever seen. As far as moped/car chases go, it gets an F.
The movie is a formulaic homage factory. It felt like Argento had a checklist of Hitchcock’s films and he was just powering through them, making all the references he could, just wiggling his fingers in those stupid fucking light-up gloves. I dare you to watch this with your pretentious friend who considers himself a film buff. He will let out so many obligatory giggles to show you how he’s getting all the references.
I will admit there is a dimension of suspense that transcends the straight-to-DVD feel of the film. I somehow hated the characters but still wanted to know what was going to happen next. Maybe this was because I was naively optimistic, but maybe it was because parts of the movie were better than abysmal. I’m the wrong person to ask.
I think they should make a sequel called Do You Like Michael Bay? in which the protagonist believes they are living out the plot of a Michael Bay movie. Truly terrifying.