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USA 1977
Directed by
Dario Argento
95 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3.5 stars


Synopsis:A young American dancer, Susan Banyon (Jessica Harper) travels to Europe to join a famous ballet school. She is tries to settle in but hears strange noises and is troubled by bizarre occurrences and eventually discovers that the school is merely a front for a much more sinister organisation.

Suspiria holds a special place in the hearts of most horror fans. It will be cited by most as the work that introduced them to the work of maestro Dario Argento and the joys of Italian horror films. The combination of Argento's visual flair, Goblin's awesome soundtrack, the ultra vicious murders and Jessica Harper's wide-eyed innocence create a grand guignol epic that blows away the conventions of the horror film, creating an ethereal experience that is in turn both gut-wrenching and beautifully visualised. The criticisms often raised about Argento's work are all present; yes, he is more interested in the gothic architecture than he is in the characters being murdered in front of it, and yes, the dialogue and performance often leave a lot to be desired, yes, the film loses its momentum in between the set pieces.

The thing is though, you don't watch a film like Suspiria or its sequel, Inferno, for its reassuring mainstream qualities. The film is a cinematic experience like no other. The opening sequence as Banyon arrives at the airport is a fine example. The soundtrack hisses "witch" as she enters a strange new world, even the sliding doors seem to have a sinister agenda, her cab ride to the school is a myriad of colours as the rain cascades down the taxi's windows and a sense of foreboding is created. In Argento's world everyday experiences become sinister happenings and horror surrounds us.

Having said that, no film could ever hope to follow the movie's infamous opening double murder and even Suspiria itself doesn't quite manage it, suffering as a result. Overall however it is one of the benchmark films of the Italian horror genre, displaying Argento's technical virtuosity and when it is great, it is one of the most astonishing films you are ever likely to see.




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