Sunday, February 12, 2017

Suspiria (1977)

 “Once you've seen it you will never again feel safe in the dark”

We will not mess about here. When I first viewed Dario Argento's, Suspiria, (1977), I was at the time somewhat underwhelmed by what I believed was a film full of inconsistencies, unintentional comedic clumsiness that the director never intended. I was fourteen going on fifteen and the year was 1981. I was viewing the film with a number of friends so I imagine the nights proceedings would be at times not of a total concentrated full viewing commitment. plus the influence of others being present often has a tendency to distort things at times. This was an evening of horror entertainment which included, Don Coscarelli's Phantasm (1979) and Lucio Fulci's, Zombie Flesh eaters, (1979). In retrospect and many decades later I am now thinking, “what a night?” The two Italian directed films often seemed incoherent, slightly silly at the time. Coscarelli's Phantasm though strangely bizarre, seemed more outlandishly appealing on that particular evening I noted. To those present Phantasm just had a greater excitable kudos attached to its conceptual invention, it did seem to connect better with an audience consisting of teenage males has compared to both Fulci's gory zombie nonsense and Argento's daft film about a ballet school being a front for a witches coven. Phantasm seemed to defy the two Italian directors cinematic horror conventions. It was undoubtedly the biggest success of the night for my youthful guests and I alike. I wonder now looking back whether we associated more with the Mike - A. Michael Baldwin character in Phantasm simply because he was in essence an intense young guy suffering from teenage angst, living in a mad and crazy world of fighting unexplained deathly flying metal spheres (brain-suckers), compacted mini-monsters, an iconic horror film bogeymen (The Tall Man) all the integral ingredients that create the non-stop catalogue of twisted mayhem that is the fantasy tale stacked behind Phantasm in its large cult appeal. This cinematic concoction was all about the created opportunity provided in which to fight the evil of Coscarelli's nightmare creations, including the additional bonus of guns, women and fast cars, a perfect adolescent formula that suited better. Don't get me wrong, we all loved the madness of our other two features but it was the gore factor of both Argento's work and more so Fulci's mad zombie effort that appealed and little else at that time. It had been word of mouth that had led us to viewing 'Flesh eaters' in particular. This film at the time had a growing notoriety, it had undoubtedly already made an impact on the video viewing public for historical reasons now obvious to those around at that time. In essence this night had represented more the obtaining of a badge of viewable honour. To observe these films was more an initiation, for it was the dawning of the 'nasty' era and often that scenario mattered to an audience of immature lads seeking more than just the fear factor of the actual films themselves. It was all about a teen bravado, the anticipation that often ruled the head rather than the considered heart. It was not until roughly several months later that I finally realised both the error of my ways when reanalysing my foolhardy thoughts and opinions regarding my distorted judgement on the importance of both directors, Lucio Fulci but for me personally more so, Dario Argento as a director of unparalleled genre brilliance and I having to finally face the realisation of how important Suspiria was as a full throttle horror film experience.