This past weekend, I was fortunate enough (along with Adam Riske, Mike Pomaro and Heather Wixson) to attend the North American premiere of Synapse Film's new 4K restoration of Dario Argento's Suspiria as part of Chicago's annual Flashback Weekend. It's a project that's been three years in the making. The wait was worth it.
I have gone over my own storied history with Italian horror many, many times on this site, so any regular readers already know that it's now one of my favorite things in the world. Suspiria will always hold a special place in my heart, though, because it was the first Italian horror movie I can really remember attempting to watch (not counting a screening of Creepers [the U.S. cut of Argento's Phenomena] in high school because a friend was going through a real Jennifer Connelly thing). I programmed it for one of our annual Scary Movie Nights back in the early 2000s, shortly after the Anchor Bay DVD had come out; Erika fell asleep immediately (Erika gotta Erika), while Doug and I were completely confused by what we were seeing and responded by creating a multiverse -- we dig on multiverses -- in which the film was shot by someone named Vincent Gardouche and a curiously Transylvanian-sounding Dario Argento ended every direction with the phrase "...at the ballet!" I never really counted this viewing as having "seen" Suspiria, because the movie was quickly incidental to me and Doug exhaustedly fucking around.
What amazes me about Suspiria no matter how many times I see it is just how determined Argento is to keep us off balance for the entirety of the running time. From it's opening moments, the movie is disorienting: we see things we don't really understand (like Eva Axén mouthing dialogue we don't understand and then wandering off into the rain for reasons we don't understand) while the soundtrack plays games to fuck with our brains. As Jessica Harper -- an actress I have come to realize I would gladly watch (or, even more specifically, listen to) in any movie ever -- walks through the airport, the incredible Goblin score drops in and out depending on the camera's point of view. (P.S. -- the score is reason alone for this new 4K restoration to exist, as it has never been more apparent that it's one of the greatest film scores ever written). With its total disregard for narrative convention, Suspiria feels more like a movie that Argento would build to -- his Inland Empire, if you will. This was his first real supernatural film after a series of excellent gialli, but it's also his most impenetrable. Most filmmakers would get here after Inferno and Phenomena; instead, Argento leads with his craziest effort and dials it back from there.
Tenebrae and Suspiria, and if I hadn't already settled on Suspiria a while back when I realized it's one of my five favorite horror movies ever, this screening would have decided it for sure. If you've never seen it or haven't seen it in years, don't dig out your old DVD or watch the version streaming on Amazon Prime. Try to hold off until you can see Synapse's restoration. It's the kind of thing that makes a masterpiece even better and further cements Suspiria as a classic without peer and one of the greatest horror films ever made. Thanks to Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, Don May Jr., Synapse Films and Flashback Weekend for my favorite theatrical experience of the year. Suspiria is a movie that continues to change my life.
...At the ballet!