Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini
Directed By:
Dario Argento

While on a Halloween-influenced horror kick, I figured it was about time I got my hands on what is considered one of the premier cult classic horror films. Directed by Dario Argento, Suspiria is a twisted bit of art that barrages the viewer both visually and with the deranged, repetitive soundtrack. For its time, I would have to say that Suspiria was a messed-up experience that likely left most viewers a bit disoriented. Even today, it has some sequences that can be a bit unnerving.

The story begins as a young American school girl, Susan (Jessica Harper), arrives at the European ballet school she's been accepted to. She arrives in the middle of a rainy night as another student flees from the school. Locked out of the school, she is forced to return the next day, onto to find out that the student she witnessed fleeing was brutally murdered. After being at the school only for a short while, she becomes ill and begins to witness some strange events. Through some research, she discovers the existence of a coven of witches within the confines of the school.

Argento's direction is done more with an artistic flair than as a practical presentation. Many of the shots are done in strong and passionate color. There are more than a few times where the director takes an artistic angle or even tries a different technique. While I applaud the fact that effort was made to make the film stand out from the crowd, some of these shots are just unneeded and serve as stylistic filler. Even though the special effects aren't all that good, they work for the style of film.

I won't kid anyone - the acting is not all that spectacular. Its not to say that the performances lack quality, because they could be a lot worse, but no one in the cast stands out as particularly good. Most of the deliveries are just good enough to fit into the cult slasher genre well without being a painful detriment. Most of the characters are just twisted and weird enough that the oddball deliveries actually work in their favor.

What works more in favor of the film than the performances is the twisted soundtrack. While there are only a handful of tracks, they're used often to drive home certain moments. Each track has a different mood to it and when the story takes an odd turn, music that fits the event kicks in. Between the music and colorful artistic direction, Suspiria tends to get the feeling of an arthouse film run amok.

That may actually be the point behind Suspiria - a film that's often odd for the sake of being odd. There are only a few moments where the film is genuinely creepy or scary, but when those aren't around, there are more than enough dreamlike locations and sequences to fill the gaps. For a piece of horror history, one should at least rent Suspiria.

- - Vane

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