Saturday, October 18, 2008

HORROR EPICS: Suspiria

SUSPIRIA (1977)
Suspiria is a classic to many horror fans, and nine out of ten would say that it is the definitive offering from Italian director Dario Argento. Having seen a number of his movies myself, I can't say I disagree. If I’m honest, Suspiria and Deep Red are the two movies that people stake Argento’s reputation on. Tenebre ranks a distant third, and the rest I’ve seen are nonessential. Jessica Harper is Suzy Banyon, a dancer from New York who arrives in Germany to hone her ballet skills at their most prestigious academy. The staff is a menagerie of people who probably should have never been released from the mental hospital, including a dance instructor who’s only missing the riding crop and swastika armband in her wardrobe. Joan Bennett from British TV’s “Dark Shadows” oversees the nutball staff as Madame Blanc, the owner of the academy. The presumably high tuition rate isn’t the only price the students pay, as the school is a front for a coven of witches who trim their roster in bloody fashion. For example, one girl is stabbed repeatedly in the heart and then hung by her neck with a telephone cord in the front lobby of an apartment building. When young Suzy begins to discover the truth, the coven turns their focus towards removing her from the picture too. The plot has its share of holes. Some may wonder why none of the students think to try changing schools when the bodies start to pile up. Others may find Dario Argento’s propensity for relying on hidden details as a plot device to be annoying. Suspiria ranks as Argento’s best because it’s where his vision comes together in the best way. It’s a luridly colorful piece of film, aided by great camera work and an excellent soundtrack by “the Goblins.” If nothing else, you’ll dig the theme song. On a smaller TV screen, Suspiria might not have much impact, but it’s downright creepy on a big screen. If you’ve got access to a video projector, I highly recommend watching Suspiria that way. Talk about chilling and effective!

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