Grimm up North Review – Excision & Suspiria
Halloween in Manchester this year turned out to be a very creepy affair, with the Grimm team showcasing the best of new horror – Richard Bates’ Excision - and a celebrated classic – Dario Argento’s Suspiria – in a suitably unsettling double bill.
By extending his 2008 short of the same name into a feature length film, Richard Bates’ twisted vision has grown into a horrific dark comedy of tragic proportions and the characters within his macabre tale have been fleshed out to encompass the extreme elements of teen angst in suburban America.
Pauline is a disturbed high school student who dreams of becoming a surgeon and is often prone to vivid nightmares in which blood and disembowlement feature heavily. Shunned by her uncaring mother in favour of her younger vulnerable sister, Pauline does not let this upset her sibling bond, and she does everything in her power to help her sister cope with Cystic Fibrosis
Excision is one of a number of films that tackle female puberty with a vicious streak of horror such as in Ginger Snaps and Carrie, with the tormented individual at the heart of the film seeking acceptance in a cruel and often unforgiving world. Pauline’s desire to be wanted strikes up similarities with the main character in Lucky McKee’s psychological horror, May, but Excision is an altogether more twisted and demented beast.
Parts of Excision are laugh out loud funny, and it is a shame that a portion of viewers will be put off by the graphic nature of the violence and dream sequences as Richard Bates has created an intelligent and thought-provoking horror that will leave your mouth agape. One of the most strikingly original and well crafted horror films I have seen this year, Excision is a must see for all fans of the genre and should not be missed.
Argento’s first foray into the realm of the supernatural still relies on the sensational set-pieces which marked him as a true auteur of the giallo genre, whilst allowing for a more fantastical storyline that revolves around a coven of witches who run a ballet school. Arriving from America, Suzy Bannion struggles to find her feet and begins to suspect that there is something sinister behind the eerie goings on that are unsettling her fellow students.
The use of a bold and vibrant colour scheme heightens the intensity of Suspiria, making the vivid death scenes both disturbing but visually enticing. Even if you wanted to look away, Argento has you firmly in his grasp as an inventive murder sequence is never too far around the corner, and most viewers are likely to be transfixed by the dazzling stylistics of a cult horror director at the top of his game.
Those new to the giallo genre may be taken aback by the often questionable acting - partly caused by the dubbing of certain characters - but this does not detract from the overall picture, and in fact, it adds a subtle charm to the proceedings as well as providing a handful of (probably unintentional) laughs which serves as light relief from the more intense horror elements.
A pounding soundtrack courtesy of Italian prog-rock band Goblin showcases Argento’s unique music taste and marked the start of a corroboration that would continue to prove popular with horror audiences throughout their most successful period in the 70’s and 80’s
Although Suspiria is not quite as unsettling as its reputation may suggest, it is still a visual delight for horror fans and having the opportunity to watch it on the big screen in Manchester’s own dancehouse was an experience I will never forget.