Even in the most harmless of places can a tale of fright disturb the innocent nature of what is was. Places that would be seen as safe haven of studying abroad can be more than they appear. Under the gorgeous sights, vivid colors and beautiful architecture can lie the darkest of magic as the master of art horror Dario Argento conveyed in the lovely Italian masterpiece, 1977’s Suspiria.
Suzy Bannion, played by Jessica Harper, had no idea what awaited her at her dance school in Munich. Suzy cannot get in to the academy yet in the stormy night as it is close, but as she leaves to stay in the nearby town, she notices something. A terror come in the form of a expelled student named Pat Hingle from the academy which Suzy sees leaving. What Suzy does not see is the murder of Pat at her friend’s apartment getting maimed and killed by an unseen man beyond compare.
Suzy makes friends at the academy with Sarah, played by Stefania Casini, and Olga, played by Babara Magnolfi, and deals with her head mistress Madame Blanc, played by Joan Bennett, and dance teacher Miss Tanner, played by Alida Valli, and falls ill due to unknown circumstances. While ill, things get odd with distinct whispers from Sarah’s sleep, footsteps of the teachers in the middle of night going nowhere in particular, maggots falling from the ceiling,
and the blind piano player Daniel, played by Flavio Bucci, getting killed by his guide dog when taking his evening stroll after his dog attacked Miss Tanner.
Suzy starts to put pieces together from Sarah’s mumblings and overhears that Pat had said the words Sarah is saying before leaving. Those words being the quite mysterious ‘isis’ and ‘secret.’ With this new clue, Suzy and the girls begin to take the clues and worm their to understand what the hell is going on behind all of this. During this, Suzy passes out of nowhere with Sarah left to fend for herself and being pursued by the unknown person that may have attacked Pat, leading to Sarah’s life to be on the wire.
Suzy soon discovers from Dr. Frank Mandel, played by Udo ‘Sitting on a bullet’ Kier, that the academy was founded by Helena Markos, a Greek woman who was claimed to be a witch. Suzy pieces to together with the aide of Mandel’s assistant Professor Milius, played by Rudolf Schundler, that it may be home to a coven as a coven can not survive without their queen present, dead or living. This leads Suzy to deal with the spirit of Helena Markos face to face.
She finishes of Helena Markos and thus the coven and their home is destroyed by Suzy, yet the experience was something that Suzy hopes to never to behold again.
Suspiria scares the hell out of me. When I first watched it a year ago, it was on a stormy afternoon while I was sick. I had the soon all the way up in the darkness of my room watching the film intently. When the main theme by Goblin started to come into play, the eerie terror of the film started to get to me. Argento’s vision of the horror in the simplest of place is quite astounding. Argento brings an artistic flair to the horror genre that is on par with classic Universal horror, but having the modern gore and kills going on in the ’70s and never strays away from it.
The acting is simplistic in nature, but that can be overlooked due to the remarkable story at hand. The mystery builds slowly and intently and eagle-eyed viewers would appreciate the use of color and vibrancy. The only gripe that would be had with this film in this era is that it does seems a little dated with its blood and gore. The way the death scenes are shot and structured, on the other hand, are revolutionary and provide a stepping stone in the right direction for filming horror. This film relies on its style to scare you and gives a perfect balance of substance to go along with it. Suspiria is a terrifying classic and worth your time.
Heck, you can even watch the whole film right here.
Next week, Film A Week’s The Spooktacular Seventies is celebrating Halloween on the site with a special Halloween post and we saved a damn good one for last that I cannot wait to review. Time to get into the local mall and protect ourselves from the living dead that terrorize our reality. They already had the night, but now the dawn is breaking. Halloween will bring about George A. Romero’s classic, Dawn of the Dead.
Film A Week 43: The Spooktacular Seventies- Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Thursday, October 31st on Halloween