For giallo and Italian horror fans, 2017 has brought quite a bit of excitement. First, it was announced that Synapse Films had finally completed their 4K restoration of Dario Argento’s classic Suspiria and the movie would go on a tour of art house theaters all over the US. As if that weren’t enough to get hyped about, a rare uncut 35mm print of Suspiria was recently unearthed and that print is also making rounds. What’s a horror fan to do? The correct answer is go see both, of course. But if you had to choose…
Suspiria is the surreal, violent tale of Suzy, an American ballet student, and her battle against an ancient evil housed within Tanz Dance Academy in Germany. Highlight clips of the movie tend to focus in on the beautiful dance students dying Technicolor deaths, and those clips hardly do the movie justice. Suspiria is an experience enhanced by the menacing, primitive soundtrack provided by Italian progressive rock group Goblin, and the vivid color palette of reds, blues, yellows, and greens to create this weird nightmare world.
With the 4K restoration and news of the uncut 35mm print, I have to say I was more interested in the 35mm print. It spoke to two sides of me: the cinema nerd side and the side that loves cult film. My first experience with Suspiria was in the outlaw days of Google Videos. Google Vids was a haven for foreign movies or cult movies under foggy copyright like Suspiria or Phantasm. Oh, those halcyon heavily pixelated days! Suspiria quickly became one of my favorite atmospheric horror movies and was my gateway into giallo, so when the 35mm print rolled over to my local art house theater I was excited to finally witness it on the big screen. And I was not alone, as both nights showing the uncut 35mm print sold out within hours.
A caveat here, though – yes, a 35mm version straight from an old Italian theater is quite the spectacular find and that’s worth the price of admission alone. But as for it being uncut, that’s a bit hazy. The missing six minutes of footage has been available on European releases for quite some time. But a complete uncut copy is hard to get for folks in the US. Was I in the theater picking out which scenes were new to me? Not really. I enjoyed the spectacle.
The movie did feel more complete than I remembered, however, if you’ve ever felt like parts of it were a bit disjointed. The main point of interest for me ended up being the noticeable “red shifting” of the film due to age. Yes, the new pinkish tint made the movie look dated even more so than the platform T-strap heels and the peak Farrah Fawcett curls of our heroine, but it also added a new layer to critical scenes. Rather than detract from the viewing experience, the added pink hues filled up space like a new danger lurking around the corner for Suzy. Decay ultimately made an already beautiful film even more unique.
I tell you, the art house scene is a strange world. There’s that vague air of pretention that mingles with the scent of popcorn, inviting and repelling at once. You see the same people at every event, sometimes you introduce yourself and sometimes you just quietly wave in solidarity. What on earth could we all possibly be doing in this theater on a Friday night, just a smidge before the witching hour, practically sitting on top of each other, waiting with bated breath for an aging copy of an Italian movie from the ’70s?
As I laughed uncomfortably at yet another over the top death scene, I realized we’d all paid for the experience. The experience of being in this theater, with these people, witnessing a new version of a film some of us had already watched way too many times and will see again. Whether it’s your thousandth evening with Argento or you’ve been intrigued for the first time, I highly recommend getting in on either of these two unique experiences; as the season of spooky descends upon us, you might gain a few witch-fighting tips. Sure, you can buy the restored version and the 35mm uncut version on Blu-Ray.
But you can’t buy that special art house camaraderie and your own theater code name. Mine’s Oogie Boogie, but that’s a long story.