Digging Up Suspiria Is a Rotten Idea

On its surface, remaking Suspiria is a bad, bad, bad idea. Upon further reflection, it’s an even worse idea. Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece of giallo and tension is essentially flawless, and there is simply no way to improve upon it, so why even bother with a project doomed to failure?

Well, don’t tell director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, The Sitter) that he’s embarking on a fool’s errand. Green has his Suspiria remake prepped to begin shooting in the fall, from a script by him and Chris Gebert. Here’s the synopsis, which hews closely to the original, but veers away on a key element:

A young American student travels to Europe to attend a world-renowned school. “After a series of brutal murders, she learns that the academy is a front for something way more sinister than education.”

In the original, the American girl (played by Jessica Harper) is attending a world-class ballet academy. I don’t like the idea of tweaking the setting. Let’s hope the Big Bad is still a very old and very powerful witch.

One thing stops me from dismissing this project out of hand: Green says he intends to honor the legacy of the original by carefully integrating sounds into the movie. No one could forget the jangling score from the band Goblin that relentlessly worms through your ears and into your brain by the last third of the movie! Green says he has secured the rights to the original score; let’s hope he uses at least some of Goblin’s mad music, and didn’t just buy it to bury it. Give a listen:

Now imagine that music scratching away at your sanity for the entire movie…

Suspiria was such a success because, under the guiding hand of Italian horror maestro Argento, the film overwhelms the viewer not just with the lurid story of witchcraft and murder, but with blocks of color and driving music. As the movie progresses, the viewer becomes more and more antsy, almost begging for a blood-soaked death to break the unbearable tension.

The in-your-face aesthetic is what set Suspiria apart from so many other horror films, concerned as they are with lots of shadows and dull lighting. To be sure, there are lots of shadows in Argento’s film, but they feel like living things rather than stage decoration. In fact, everything about Suspiria is filled with nervous energy and a sense of dread, from a blind man with a dog to the curtains to a garish peacock statue. And you haven’t seen “dark and stormy nights” until you’ve witnessed Argento version!

Suspiria was ahead of its time in terms of ghastly violence, too. The room filled with piano wire would make Clive Barker and Pinhead proud.

If you’ve never watched Suspiria, you don’t know what you’re missing. Rent it or buy it on DVD as soon as you can and treat yourself to a classic of Italian giallo cinema.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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