Celebrating its 40th Anniversary, Dario Argento's psychedelic nightmare Suspiria haunts home theaters once more with a brand-new facelift, thanks to the efforts of Synapse Films. Coming from a brand-new 4K remaster of the original camera negatives and a restoration of the original 4-track magnetic stereo mix, the cult giallo classic arrives to Blu-ray in the definitive, highly-recommended package devoted fans must own.
At the heart of the 1977 giallo classic Suspiria lies a bold venture to change the way in which horror films are watched and experienced. Experimenting with lighting, mise-en-scène, and sound, legendary filmmaker Dario Argento plunges his audience into a psychedelic nightmare of hypnotic visuals working in conjunction with the stage design and cinematography. Awash in a seemingly arbitrary display of vivid primary colors that contradict the explicitly gory violence, the film is ultimately an attempt to induce fear through overt and transparent sources outside the story proper, such as the ear-piercingly disturbing music and incessant drumming of the score by 1970s experimental rock band Goblin. The constant juxtaposition successfully creates an apprehensive atmosphere that deliberately interrupts the narrative flow at odd moments as well as during expected scenes of shocking violence. Argento's bizarre creation is a nightmarish spectacle of incredible beauty and terror, a series of phantasmagoric stills pieced together to make a movie.
The plot, itself, is sparse and plain as it follows a young American dancer named Suzy (Jennifer Harper) through the stressful demands of a prestigious ballet academy. The highly-stylized Italian film surrounds the aspiring dancer with a loud and flamboyant air of mystery and suspense while the disturbing stares of the school's cook and the Village of the Damned-like boy plunge the hallways into maddening tension. Headmistress Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) seems friendly on the outside, but there's always a sense of something far darker and more sinister behind her smile. Meanwhile, the austere and foreboding instructor Miss Tanner (Alida Valli) proudly stomps through the halls with a harsh, stern glare as though she earned the right to do so. Even more interesting is Argento subverting conventions of the giallo by making men unavailable or physically impaired, serving little purpose or failing in stereotypical feats of gallantry. Bold, brash and terrifyingly entertaining, Suspiria is a macabre horror thriller that pushed the boundaries and has rightly earned its enormous, worldwide cult following.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the 2010 UK Import Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Synapse Films unleashes Dario Argento's Suspiria to Blu-ray as a two-disc, collector's edition package. Both the BD50 and BD25 disc sit comfortably on opposing panels inside the standard blue keepcase with reversible cover art that features new artwork. The disc goes straight to the main menu with music and full-motion clips.
A 40th Anniversary SteelBook is also available (review HERE), but it appears to be sold out at this time.
Coming from a 4K remaster and restoration of the original, uncensored 35mm camera negative supervised and approved by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, this brand-new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode will shock and astound devoted fans of the film. Simply put, this is absolutely the best the cult classic has ever looked, completely rectifying its problematic history on home video and blowing away the previous Blu-ray by Cine Excess away.
Immediately apparent, right from the opening scene at the airport, are the sumptuous array of primaries washing over the entire scene. As we continue with Pat arriving at a friend's apartment and the pair's eventual death, the screen is engulfed in vibrant blood reds, electrifying blues and vividly animated yellows. There are a few moments throughout, however, when the palette seems slightly duller than others, but this is likely related to the original photography rather than a concern with the encode. Secondary hues are bright and spirited, and skin tones appear natural and lifelike. Most appreciated, especially compared to previous releases, are the improved contrast and brightness levels. Fans are no longer made to suffer the blown-out whites and several instances of clipping and severe whitewashing in the highlights. Every scene is comfortably bright with clean, crisp whites, and blacks are rich and true with superb detailing within the darkest shadows.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the presentation also arrives with remarkable definition and resolution, minus the few soft and blurry spots here and there, which again, are likely the result of the photography. Nevertheless, the source appears to in superb condition and has aged terrifically well, uncovering every nook and cranny of the dance school. Viewers can really appreciate the woodwork in the furniture and architecture, clearly make out the design and fine line of the wallpaper, and see every individual thread and stitch in the clothing. Facial complexions are highly revealing, laying bare each wrinkle, minor blemish and even exposing the faint freckles surrounding the nose of Jessica Harper. Overall, this is a positively brilliant and gorgeous HD presentation of a dearly beloved cult horror classic.
The film also haunts the Blu-ray hallways with a splendid English DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 soundtrack, which was also made from a remaster of the original 4-track magnetic stereo track. This new 96kHz/24-bit presentation is true to the original sound design and is simply fantastic, giving fans the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful gem as it was originally meant to be heard, with discreet tracks to the left, center, right and surround channels. This allows for the hair-raising music of Goblin to spread across the screen and generate a soundstage that feels expansive and broad while delivering each note, instrument and high-pitched noise with stunning clarity and intonation. Vocals are never drowned out by the loudest segments or the chaotically nerve-wracking score, maintaining excellent priority with appreciable inflection and timbre. The low-end is not particularly noteworthy, but the mix nonetheless comes with a great mid-bass that provides the music and action strong weight and presence. Occasionally, the surround channel is also employed for a few ambient effects, nicely expanding the soundfield and enveloping the listener with an eerie atmosphere.
Frankly, this is a magnificent lossless mix and the definitive way to truly enjoy the film.
Audio Commentaries: The first commentary features author of Italian cinema Troy Howarth providing a variety of factoids and anecdotes as action appears on screen. The second track is an enlightening conversation between authors and Argento scholars Derek Botelho and David Del Valle.
Do You Know Anything about Witches? (HD, 30 min): Video essay by Michael Mackenzie sharing his childhood memories of the film while also discussing Dario Argento's career and unique visual style.
A Sigh from the Depths (HD, 27 min): Amusing retrospective with film historians, authors and fans.
Olga's Story (HD, 17 min): Barbara Magnolfi talks about the character and her performance.
Suzy in Nazi Germany (HD, 8 min): Discussion on German locations with notes on the architecture.
Trailers (HD): A trio of theatrical previews is joined by three TV spots and five radio promos.
Dario Argento's Suspiria is a cult horror masterpiece from one of the best-known names in the genre. The highly-stylized Italian film is ultimately an experiment with sound, lighting, and setting where the suspense and fear arise more from working these three elements together than through the story alone. The Blu-ray edition courtesy of Synapse Films arrives with a phenomenally gorgeous high-def presentation that will simply astound and amaze the most loyal fans, and the brand-new lossless mix is also the best one could possibly imagine or have hoped for. With a nice collection of new supplements, the overall package is the definitive version of the cult giallo classic and highly-recommended for devoted followers.