Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dipping My Toes in Horror: Scream and Suspiria


One thing that I just realised in this past week is that there are five Wednesdays this month, as Halloween is coincidentally on a Wednesday (talk about a nice way to wrap things up). That means that I have an extra week to catch up with two more horrors, bringing this months tally up to ten horror films. Which is a good thing, since there's so many that I want to see. Still, I need some recommendations. C'mon, people! Anyway, this week on tap we have the 90s horror/comedy Scream and Dario Argento's 70s classic Suspiria.


I love movies that reference other movies endlessly, are completely self-aware, and don't really take themselves all that seriously. It is a pretty tough task to do that all so well, but Scream just about has it down pat. Starting off with the famous phone call that ensures the demise of Drew Barrymore, we're introduced to a killer who likes to ask his future victims if they like scary movies. There's a bit of chatter about scary movies, and then the real scares go on. It has a fairly basic premise, harking back to the popular teen slasher movies that went before it. And yeah, it is quite effective.

There's actually not a heck of a lot I can think to say about Scream, other than I really enjoyed it. And that's pretty surprising, considering I have this huge inability to love anything about the 80s and 90s (which is weird, because I was born in the 90s). It is silly fun, much to the point where it gets a little too silly, but its heart is in the right place. Matthew Lillard was extremely odd in this movie, though. I'm so backwards that I only knew him as the guy that George Clooney's wife was having an affair with in The Descendants. Which is part of the reason why I found The Descendants to be so disappointing...Matthew Lillard over The Cloon? Really? Basically, Scream gave me a whole new reason to really dislike The Descendants. Which probably wasn't what the film set out to do, but never mind. I love how there was a Clueless reference in here, even though they were released merely a year apart. It shows the movie universe I love - where all the movies join together and make fun of each other like nothing else matters. It is just so warm and cosy. Even if the film is about teenagers getting killed. Maybe this is how Project X should have turned out.


Before I start with my sure-to-be controversial opinion on Suspiria, let me tell you a little story. You may recall me every now and again saying how I never liked the movies that played at midday on Sunday. That comes down to one movie: The Witches. I can't remember how old I was when I saw this, but it remains to be the scariest film I've ever seen. My memory hasn't been too kind to this movie (with good reason), but one thing I remember is how one of the witches turned this innocent guy into a mouse. That freaked me out more than anything. For a long time, I was terrified of doing anything. In a way, this film fed my extremely annoying vice of being paranoid about absolutely everything.

Gee, thanks a lot, The Witches.

Since then I haven't had an easy relationship with films about witches. Those things can do anything. This obviously rubbed off on my viewing of Suspiria, which is a film that I didn't really like at all. The film is set within a ballet school, where a newbie discovers that the staff are really a coven of witches. Which is okay, but not a lot happens, and not a lot is done about these witches. Watching this with my mother (who is probably the biggest horror freak I know) probably had an impact, as she has such a high tolerance for gore that I'm sure it could never be fulfilled. There are a few really scary and gory moments, but otherwise, there isn't too much happening. It ends really abruptly, too. However, the music is quite good (even though I found it to be a little distracting at times), and the production design is fantastic. The ballet academy's architecture and decoration was probably the scariest thing about the film. Along with Jessica Harper looking extremely similar to Lily Collins. Other than that, I was quite disappointed by Suspiria. To think that I was looking for more scares is quite worrying - I tend to shy away from such things.

What do you think of Scream? Or Suspiria? Any more recommendations for my month of horror?

24 comments:

  1. So sad you didn't like Suspiria, that's one of my favourite horror movies. Always adored it, and yet it's the only Dario Argento film I've bothered to watch. Always will be a superb film for me though. Great post.

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    1. Surprised also that you didn't take to Suspiria that much, Stevee!

      And I have grown to like Scream more over the last few years. At least it's better than the 4th one, anyway...

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    2. I'm not sure why I didn't take to Suspiria, but there it is!

      And I don't think I'll delve into the rest of the Scream series. I'm good with one.

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  2. I remember seeing Scream when it came out (me = old), at which time I was reasonably new to horror films myself, so a lot of the genre satire kind of sailed past me. I do recall liking the film, but it's not something I'm in any hurry to revisit. And I've never really got into "real" slasher films much since then, either.

    As for Suspiria, I love it, but I have come to realise just what an acquired taste Italian horror cinema can be. Have you seen any of Dario Argento's other films? He tends to be style over substance, except in recent years where he seems to have gone for neither style nor substance; Suspiria is the one film of his where the style *is* the substance. He's never quite matched it, as far as I know.

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    1. I haven't seen any other Dario Argento films, unfortunately! I suppose that may have contributed to why I didn't love Suspiria...but I don't know why I didn't love it all that much.

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    2. I've only come to a belated appreciation of Argento myself (even though it's about 15 years since I first saw anything of his). And even then it's a limited apreciation at that; it takes a far stronger Argentophile than me to find much good in his post-1987 or so career. And, like I said, this sort of thing can be an acquired taste, particularly if you value things like narrative logic and cohesion.

      You may prefer The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, his first film, or the one he made before Suspiria, Deep Red. (Just don't watch them both in too close succession or you'll realise they're pretty much the same film.) Although they're both classified by some as horror by virtue of being giallo films (there's a whole other history lesson there), they're both non-supernatural thrillers.

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  3. I don't get the love for Argento films. I find them pretty ugly, visually and aurally. Scream is fantastic... not only thrilling but very clever and witty too!

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    1. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who didn't take to Suspiria! And yes, Scream has the full package!

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  4. Aww, I'm sad you didn't like Susperia! I can see why it's not everybody's favorite. My husband hates it. I do love the Scream movies though. No matter how ridiculous they get, they're still a good watch.

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    1. Scream does get pretty ridiculous, but I really enjoyed it!

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  5. I can understand the love of Suspiria, but I wasn't a huge fan of it, either. I thought it looked great, and I loved that score (once you got over how freakin' LOUD it was). But other than that... I don't really consider it a horror film. Or incredibly entertaining.

    As for Scream, you said... "I love movies that reference other movies endlessly, are completely self-aware, and don't really take themselves all that seriously." Since you have extra spots this month, you MUST watch "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon." It's very comparable to Scream, but it does it even more meta and even better. If you know slasher movie tropes (and any famous horror actors from the 80s and maybe early 90s), then this is genius.

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    1. Yeah, I'm in the same boat as you about Suspiria. It just didn't click.

      We actually have Behind the Mask at work! I will definitely give it a go!

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  6. I'll second Nick's vote on Behind the Mask. It's not only a good slasher movie at the end, it's also a very clever and funny send up of the genre.

    As for Suspiria, well, I love the soundtrack and I love the visuals. It's not a great story. For me, that film is all about the way it looks rather than what specifically is on the screen. I always thought Jessica Harper looked like Karen Allen.

    Not knowing precisely all of the horror you've seen, I'll recommend The Haunting (the one from the early 1960s). It's not particularly scary by today's standards, but it is really atmospheric and interesting--no gore, no bodies, but all unsettling. You'll either love it for what it is or be bored by it. 1982's The Thing is the opposite--all gory practical effects, but still fantastic and hugely fun. I'll also toss out 28 Days Later and The Devil's Backbone as two of my favorites.

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    1. I will definitely try and check it out!

      Yeah, I thought the film was more there visually than it was anything else, which is a shame. And yes, Jessica Harper does look like Karen Allen. With a kind of a Winona Rider twist to it.

      The Haunting...I'll see if I can track that down! I have seen 28 Days Later, which is fantastic. The Thing is on my watchlist, too, as I watched the most recent version of it. I should probably catch up with the 1982 one.

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  7. Scream was one of my favorite movies as a kid. LOVE that flick to death.

    Other films for you to watch... depends, what kind of horror are you going for? Gore? Suspense? Thriller? Slasher?

    Either way, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the original Halloween can never do you wrong.

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    1. I'm going for anything...just as long as it is good, haha.

      The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween are definitely on my list, though.

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  8. Sorry you didn't like Suspiria, that one is definetly one of my favorite horror movies and for many reasons I adore movies where witches make even the smallest appearance.

    As for horrors you should see the Descent and original Shutter but I should warn you - these are really scary!

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    1. I'm sorry I didn't like Suspiria, too!

      Descent has always been one I've wanted to see, though it looks really really really scary!

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  9. Glad you dug Scream. One of my favorite horror flicks. I think Matthew Lillard is great in the film!

    Suspiria is one of those films that either grows on you or turns you off. It's not a pleasant experience to watch, but I love how it's all out, aggressive horror. It's oppressive and abrasive on an aesthetic level that makes it outright insane in moments. But it's not for everyone.

    As far as suggestions, the silent The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is worth checking out. Very similar in tone to Nosferatu, but a much more twisty storyline. Another great one is the French Horror film Eyes without a Face.

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    1. Second on Eyes Without a Face! That's a weird little disturbing creeper!

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    2. Matthew Lillard is great in the film! He was all-out crazy.

      I should probably branch out to different kinds of horrors like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Eyes Without a Face. I'll see how I go!

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  10. Thank you! I've been trying to find out what The Witches was actually called for years. When I was a kid, I saw the scene where he's turned into a mouse on TV, and I've been trying to see the film ever since. I'll have to track it down now. :D

    Love both of these films. Sorry you didn't like Suspiria.

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    1. I admit I had to search it up, because I was under the impression that it was actually Hocus Pocus. But now I know what it is, I'll probably be avoiding it, haha.

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  11. I just saw Suspiria for the second time the other day in a class called 'The Modern Soundtrack' - I love it, so I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it so much. Like you say, the production design and the colour are all amazing, and the music just adds so much to the tension. I often have the score playing around in my head!
    Haven't seen Scream though :/

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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