Dario Argento's psychedelic nightmare Suspiria is a highly-stylized experiment in terror, and it remains a cult horror masterpiece. Thanks to the restoration efforts of Synapse Films, the influential film haunts 4K Ultra HD with a brand-new HDR10 facelift and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos presentation, culled from a remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives. With the same set of supplements as the previous Blu-ray, the overall UHD package is a must-own for devoted cult collectors and a Highly-Recommended addition to the 4K library.
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.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Synapse Films unleashes Dario Argento's Suspiria to 4K Ultra HD as a two-disc set with a triple-layered UHD100 disc sitting comfortably opposite a BD25 disc containing the special features. Both discs are housed inside a black, eco-elite case with a glossy slipcover and reversible cover art. At startup, the UHD goes straight to the main menu with music, full-motion clips and the usual selection of options along the bottom.
The visual masterpiece haunts the halls of Ultra HD with a stunningly gorgeous and remarkable HEVC H.265 encode, surprisingly surpassing an already magnificent 2018 Blu-ray from Synapse Films.
Culled from the same 4K remaster and restoration of the original, uncensored 35mm camera negative, which was supervised by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, the 2160p transfer terrorizes with a notable uptick in overall definition and resolution. We can better make out every nook and cranny of the dance school, plainly seeing the minute features in the furniture and architecture, the fine lines in the design of the wallpaper, and see every individual thread and stitch in the clothing. Facial complexions are highly revealing, exposing every wrinkle and minor blemish with lifelike texturing. A few soft and blurry moments are sprinkled throughout, but that's to be expected from a film of this vintage and as the result of the photography.
Considering the cult classic's often unfortunate history on home video, contrast balance was the area of most concern walking into this UHD edition. And thanks to the corrective efforts made on the most recent BD release, I'm very happy to report the 4K video maintains precise, spot-on contrast throughout. In fact, whites are pitch-perfect and vividly intense in some areas. Meanwhile, specular highlights are radiantly crisp and narrow, exposing the smaller details within the hottest, most dazzling spots, such as in the lights bulbs or when large sections glows a brilliant white. Also, black levels are notably improved, looking richer and inkier with superb gradational differences in the various shades and excellent visibility within the dark, silky shadows, providing the 2.35:1 image with a lovely cinematic, film-like quality.
Of course, Argento's nightmarish jewel is best remembered for its psychedelic display of colors, a kaleidoscope-like bombardment of various shades washing over every grisly, gory sequence. Right from the opening scene at the airport, the HDR10 presentation hypnotizes with a more lavish and flamboyant array of split-complementary primaries that continue through to Pat's and her friend's death. The screen is engulfed in brighter candy rose reds, electrifying cobalt blues and animated canary golden yellows that especially pop against cleaner whites. Secondary hues are equally more dazzling and animated while skin tones appear more natural with an attractive peachy-rosiness around the cheeks.
Awash with a thin, natural grain structure, the cult horror classic has never looked better. (Video Rating: 92/100)
A coven of witches holds mass on Ultra HD with a frighteningly magnificent and deliciously terrifying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that to my amazement effortlessly surpasses its lossless brethren. And coming from an audio purist that really loves the previous iteration, I can not praise this version enough, as it awesomely exceeds its DTS-HD MA 4.0 counterpart by reportedly restoring and remastering the original 4-track magnetic stereo track. Impressively, this object-based incantation remains faithful to the original sound design by containing and maintaining all the action and music across the screen. But for fans intimately familiar with the film's uniquely memorable soundtrack, this is nothing to scoff at, and if anything, the additional channels shockingly improve upon an already fantastically beautiful gem.
With discreet clarity between the left, center, right and surround channels, Atmos widens and expands the hair-raising music of Goblin into a spaciously broad and sweeping soundstage, delivering each note, instrument and high-pitched noise with stunning precision and distinction into the higher frequencies. The added bonus is the music extending into the top front heights and lightly into the sides, generating a highly-engaging half-dome soundscape that terrifyingly pulls viewers into this strikingly beautiful world of witchcraft. Occasionally, a few atmospherics also bleed through the overheads for creating a creepy hemispheric soundfield, and the mysterious footsteps at around the 48-minute mark is a demo-worthy highlight as the clickety-clack of each step convincingly move across the ceiling. And like the DTS-HD version, vocals are never drowned out by the loudest segments or the chaotically nerve-wracking score, maintaining excellent priority with appreciable inflection and timbre in the ADR dialogue. However, the low-end is surprisingly noteworthy with the mid-bass provides the music and action with a slightly weightier and stronger presence.
In the end, this is a magnificent Atmos mix for a film of this vintage thanks to the score and a few carefully-placed ambient effects moving through the surrounds and heights, a wickedly delightful soundfield enveloping the listener with an eerie atmosphere. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)
For this UHD edition, the same assortment of supplements are ported over from the standard two-disc 2018 Blu-ray release, which can be read in more detail in our review HERE.
Do You Know Anything about Witches? (HD, 30 min)
A Sigh from the Depths (HD, 27 min)
Olga's Story (HD, 17 min)
Suzy in Nazi Germany (HD, 8 min)
Dario Argento's Suspiria is a cult horror masterpiece from one of the best-known names in the genre. The highly-stylized Italian giallo 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 4K Ultra HD edition courtesy of Synapse Films terrifies with a phenomenally gorgeous HDR10 presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos mix that astounds and improves over its Blu-ray counterpart, making this the best the cult classic has ever looked. With the same collection of supplements, the overall UHD package is the definitive, highly-recommended version of the cult giallo classic for devoted followers.