Dario Argento’s pseudo-sequel to Suspiria is a gem but it is often overlooked or outright dismissed when the conversation turns to the director’s classic works. Inferno is a beautifully photographed and surreal picture that made me fall in love with it immediately upon watching it for the first time. It represents a time when the famed director was still batting 1,000 – his creativity was a largely untapped resource and as such, the auteur director was able to turn out classic after classic. But for some reason, horror fans tend to get a bit persnickety when it comes to Inferno.
I think what causes a lot of fans to recoil when someone suggests that Inferno is a well-made and enticing piece of art is the simple and unavoidable fact that it is not and never will be Suspiria. For me, the fact that it is not Suspiria is part of its charm. I’m glad Argento didn’t try to clone his 1977 masterpiece with this loose sequel. Suspiria is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of perfect storm of surreal creativity. And while Inferno may not top its predecessor, it should by no means be discounted out of hand or looked down upon.
Suspiria is Argento’s Sistine Chapel and it would be impossible to replicate. And Inferno is a very respectable companion piece that rarely gets the credit it deserves. The underwater scene is absolutely breathtaking and it amazes me every time I watch it. The whole film has a surreal quality about it that is almost indescribable. Nothing is what it seems in the context of the film and nothing is as we would expect it to be. Inferno introduces the audience to whom we expect to be the final girl in the first act of the film and she’s killed off before you can blink. Argento isn’t afraid to take risks and almost every one of them pays off in this 1980 outing.
One theme from Suspiria that is carried over to Inferno is the bright, intoxicating use of vibrant colors. We see Argento use the deepest of reds in nearly every frame of the film. The colors tell a story all their own and it is beautiful.
Another issue I have heard people raise with Inferno is that it is incoherent at times. But that makes me wonder how anyone lodging that complaint ever managed to get through Suspiria? Suspiria is one of the least coherent films I’ve seen. In fact, Inferno is actually slightly more cohesive than Suspiria. Argento has never been known for cohesion but that is part of the beauty of his work. Fans seeing either film for the first time have the pleasure of wondering what the director will do to surprise and delight them next and he always leaves them guessing and wanting more.
If you have not taken in the sensory overload that is Inferno, you really must. If you have already made up your mind that you don’t like Inferno, consider giving it another chance. Inferno truly is an exquisite picture.