Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” is easily one of the greatest horror movies ever made. It’s one of the very few horror movies I can call perfect, and I rarely ever do that. Argento’s horror film about a ballet academy with a hideous secret is a marvel for the eyes, the ears, and for horror audiences that enjoy brain food with their cinema. Jessica Harper is excellent as young Suzy, a ballet dancer who travels to Germany to attend a very elite ballet school. Upon the surprising realization that she hasn’t been allowed to enter the school thanks to a late entry, she is surprisingly allow to attend when a student is mysteriously and gruesomely murdered in her apartment. Suzy immediately begins to become attuned to her surroundings, and finds her environment within the militant and unusual ballet school most unsettling, to the point where she begins to fall ill, and experiences unusual events.
As she begins befriending the fellow students, they slowly begin to die one by one in some of the gruesome manners imaginable. As the body count rises, Suzy begins to investigate what is behind the doors of the school before she herself is killed. Every single frame in “Suspiria” is absolutely mesmerizing with Argento framing every scene like some kind of surreal painting. Argento’s use of bold colors and flat scenery is just out of this world and he unfolds his narrative like a nightmare as viewed through the lens of a grimm fairy tale. The more Suzy finds herself engulfed in this ballet academy, the deeper the rabbit hole gets. It soon becomes very doubtful she’ll be able to escape its depths. One moment protagonist Suzy is riding in a taxi during a horrible thunder storm and glimpses out on to a labyrinth of woods as a young woman flees in sheer horror.
Moments of inexplicability such as that make “Suspiria” seem as if what we’re watching is never reality at all, but some machination hidden in the darkness. What’s so extraordinary is that from the moment “Suspiria” opens, it’s obvious that there’s a powerful force of evil manipulating every element that lures protagonist Suzy. And though we can sense something sinister is guiding her, the movie manages to retain its sense of unpredictability. Every corner of “Suspiria” is filled with a potential surprise and shocking death. Argento is skilled in introducing a fright that clings on to the audiences memory and uncoils them more and more. Argento draws out the suspense for every scene, and delivers a humongous blow to the audience who will assuredly wait on baited breath every time one of our characters is in peril.
Rest assured, audiences will be waiting on baited breath by the time “Suspiria” reaches its halfway mark. Dario Argento sneaks in such a simplistic premise under such a wonderful and masterful production that combines direction and a brilliant score for one hell of a nightmarish punch. Which is not a slight on the writing by Argento and Darai Nicolodi, in the least as the pair manage to build on the tension and create some of the most iconic moments in horror cinema. This includes a gruesome death by a high window, and an absolutely painful fall in to a room filled with barbed wire. “Suspiria” is a masterpiece that should be viewed by movie buffs, and film students alike. It’s an absolute standard of the genre.