Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi
Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion
Stefania Casini as Sara
Flavio Bucci as Daniel
Alida Valli as Miss Tanner
Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc
Although I had heard about Suspiria over the years, and the consensus was that it is a very good horror flick, I had never feasted on the visual artistry or shocking violence…until now.
The setting for Suspiria is an exclusive ballet academy in Germany. Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) is, we find out, a new student from the United States…and she’s not having a good day. Her plane arrives at the airport late at night and she notices as she approaches the door to outside that there is a severe storm in progress. She is absolutely drenched by the time a taxi finally stops to pick her up…and the cabbie will not lift a finger to help her with her bags. The cab driver proceeds to be extremely rude to her, clearly not pleased with her incorrect pronunciation of her intended destination.
Finally Suzy arrives at the school and is almost knocked down by a young woman dashing out into the rain and wind. The woman looks terrified and is saying something to an unknown person just inside the door before racing off. What was it she said? Iris? Secret? Suzy cannot tell for sure. What she does know, however, is that the young fleeing woman did not leave the door open for her…and the voice on the other side of the intercom refuses to allow her entry. Tired and soggy, Suzy returns to her taxi and is driven to a hotel for the night.
The fleeing woman will not be so comfortable. She is in a state of horror and panic over something associated with the school. Then, while at a friends house planning her early morning escape from the country, fleeing woman is attacked and killed in one of the most brutal and shocking scenes that I have ever seen. My heart was racing and I yelled out loud repeatedly before the scene was over.
Once inside the school the next day, Suzy meets the Head Mistress and teachers of this very strict ballet academy. She also meets several of the students…and they are all very strange indeed. The teachers were all over-the-top militant in their demeanor, and the students interacted like a bunch of Jr. High kids.
The story unfolds to reveal secret plots, evil magic and impending doom. I loved it!
Suspiria is considered by many to be the best work ever by Dario Argento. The use of lighting, camera angles, close-up and music (performed by The Goblins with input from Argento himself) create a sinister and surreal shroud of dread and angst. The secret purpose of the school and everyone employed there develops slowly before building to climax of intensity and sheer horror. Heck, there is even a zombie!
Argento has many film trademarks that are all displayed in Suspiria, such as close-ups of the eyes, the use of imaginative shadows and colors… and the intense violent nature of the murders of beautiful women. Many suspect that Argento has a hatred of women that manifests itself in his films. Argento’s response to such accusations? He has stated many times that someone is going to die in a horror movie anyway, so it might as well be a beautiful woman so that there is at least something pretty to look at on the screen. Hard to argue with that logic. Controversy aside, Suspiria is classic horror in grand 70s style, and deserves a place on the classic horror shelf of any Horror Freak’s movie collection. Just don’t watch it while eating spaghetti.