The first time I ever saw Dario Argento’s Suspiria, I was very young—somewhere between eight and ten (I’m gettin’ old, so my memories are fuzzy from time to time). Regardless of whatever exact number that age might have been, I just know I was definitely too damned young, because Suspiria shattered my budding cinematic sensibilities and screwed with my tender psyche in ways that would stick with me for my entire life. It’s a movie I’ve spent a long time loving, which means I’ve been patiently waiting for Synapse’s restoration of the landmark giallo film from one of Italy’s premier Maestros of Horror.
And after three arduous years (for Synapse, not for me, obviously), the 4K restoration version of Suspiria has finally arrived, and it is absolutely well worth the wait. Not only is watching every single frame like bearing witness to a work of art, but this presentation, complete with a nerve-shredding sound mix that complements Goblin's iconic score, has transformed Suspiria into an experience that feels akin to seeing it for the first time all over again. It is absolutely gorgeous, and Synapse should be incredibly proud of their achievements with this release.
Suspiria’s greatest asset as a horror movie is Argento’s wildly unpredictable nature as a storyteller, making everything about his twisted fairytale unsettling from the very start. With shades of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the Grimm Brothers coursing through its demented veins, Argento introduces us to an aspiring dancer named Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper), who has traveled to Germany to perfect her craft and study at a dance academy under the tutelage of the tough-as-nails instructor Miss Tanner (Alida Valli) and the school’s headmistress, Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett). Upon her arrival, Suzy runs into a panicked student named Pat (Eva Axén), who utters some nonsensical phrases and takes off, running desperately through the forest as an intense rainstorm pounds down on everything in its path.
A confused Suzy leaves the school after being told she may not enter that evening, and we see Pat meet an unfortunate fate as she’s brutally murdered in a stunning sequence that still shocks some 40 years later. The next day, Suzy returns to the dance academy and settles in with her fellow dancers. Most are less than impressed with the arrival of a new student, but the kind-hearted Sara (Stefania Casini) takes a liking to Suzy, and they quickly become friends and confidants. A bizarre sequence of events unfolds at the school—Suzy collapses during class, maggots rain down from the air vents, a harmless dog attacks a boy out of nowhere, and Sara disappears mysteriously, leaving Suzy convinced that there’s something far more sinister afoot at her new school than the fact that her European pupils and teachers have been less than inviting. She sets out to solve the mysteries of the dance academy, but Suzy is unprepared for all the horrors she will encounter.
As mentioned, Suspiria feels deeply influenced by some of the common themes most of us grew up reading in children’s fairytales—especially Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland—with Argento’s uniquely bold visual style complementing the horror and uncertainty contained within those stories. Argento has created numerous unforgettable films throughout his career, but the palettes and inspirations behind the imagery he utilizes in Suspiria is so beautifully purposeful and strikingly bold that you could spend your life dissecting each of of the film’s visuals and you still probably wouldn’t get a chance to dig into every nook and cranny that Argento works into his giallo masterpiece.
A film that has been hugely influential amongst fans and filmmakers alike for four decades now, Suspiria remains one of the greatest horror movies ever concocted, and the new 4K restoration is the perfect celebration of Argento’s mad genius, heightening the film’s frenzied dread and uncertainty as Suzy descends deeper into her hellish ordeal. For those who are longtime fans of Suspiria, or even casual admirers or those who have yet to bear witness to the nightmarish madness of this classic film, I cannot recommend Synapse’s presentation of Suspiria enough.
If you aren’t able to see the 4K restoration of Suspiria on the big screen during its theatrical rollout, you will definitely want to pick up Synapse’s upcoming Blu-ray. This feels like a watershed moment for horror film restorations, and I cannot wait to finally have a proper version of Argento’s masterwork of my very own. And thank you, Synapse, for all the love you poured into this and your tireless efforts to make sure fans had the definitive version of Suspiria to enjoy for years to come.
Movie Score: 4.5/5