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31 Horror Movies I Own #10: Suspiria

After seeing Lamberta Bava’s Demons (which I picked up because of the cover), I became obsessed Italian horror, and in particular, with tracking down screenwriter Dario Argento’s entire catalog. Billed as having “the most vicious murder scene ever filmed” when it was released, the 1977 cult classic Suspiria still deserves that title—even with super crazy 1977 wardrobe and hair.

Young American Suzy Bannion wins a spot at a prestigious dance school in Freiburg, Gemany, and very strange things start happening the moment she arrives. Starting with whispers and a spectacular scene involving thousands of maggots, the film moves into the killings, where it’s eventually revealed that the whole company is a coven of witches obsessively worshiping their witch-y Queen and founder (The Mother of Sighs).

Here’s the thing: to love Argento, you have to love bad dubbing, over-the-top music, and thick, paint-like Technicolor blood. And I DO! He totally makes it work by combining those cheese-a-riffic elements with scripts rooted in mystery, innovative deaths, beautiful scream queens, and expert framing.

Suspiria is one of his best, because every scene is dripping with atmosphere, from the imposing exterior of the academy, to the velvet-draped rooms and exquisitely choreographed murders.

I also really enjoy Phenomena (American title: Creepers) starring a very young Jennifer Connelly, Trauma, and Mother of Tears—which is the 3rd film in his “Three Mothers” trilogy, following Suspiria and Inferno (The Mother of Darkness).

I’ve gotten into arguments with people before about Argento, with them falling on the “he’s a hack who lucked out with one film” side, and me falling on the “The man doesn’t make Oscar nominees, he makes ENTERTAINMENT” side. No matter what imperfections his films have, I always finish them with a deep appreciation for what he puts on screen: beautiful, tragic, blood-spattered terror.

If you’re into horror, you’re missing out by not experiencing at least one Argento film, and Suspiria is a good one to start with.

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