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The last word in fear.,
This review is from: Suspiria (Three Disc Limited Edition) (DVD)For those of us who think that Wes Craven is the master of the horror genre, we can think again. I'm speaking these words after watching "Suspiria," one of the most frightening and terrifying horror movies ever made. Created by Italian director Dario Argento, the movie manages to be menacing and gory at the same time, and Argento fills his canvas with a vast array of vivid yet bizarre colors, eerie lighting and camera techniques, and a soundtrack to top all horror soundtracks. In short, this is one hell of a scary movie!
The plot is a basic one, more of a vehicle for Argento's explorative imagination. It begins with a storm, as young Susy Banyon (Jessica Harper) arrives in Germany to attend ballet school. Argento wastes no time in creating a sense of unease, from her cab ride to the school, as she watches the colors of street lights in the pouring rain, to the gruesome and outright malicious murder of a runaway student. All of this happens within the first ten minutes, which should be a message of what lies ahead (in other words, be prepared).
The movie then takes us to the school itself, a dazzling array of vivid colors and elaborate set pieces that put the house in Robert Wise's "The Haunting" to shame. Susy is shown the many rooms and introduced to the staff and students, though discovers that she will be rooming off campus. That is, until she begins to get suspicious about strange occurrences, and the staff relocates her to the premises. Her suspicions mount higher, and she begins to wonder if there isn't more to the ladies that run the academy.
You may find yourself forgetting the plot behind all of this mayhem, but that's perfectly reasonable, given the fact that Argento seems to be more interested in attacking our minds than provoking them. And he succeeds in doing just that, taking us into the darkest depths of horror with his adept use of gore, bursting colors, camera movements and creepy sounds from all around.
This is extremely unsettling stuff here, some of the most elaborate yet unbearable set pieces ever constructed for a film. The beginning murder sequence is a true shocker, one that we see coming, but never in such a gruesome manner. Other sequences involve a blind man being attacked by his own seeing-eye dog, multiple stabbings, a girl's corpse coming back to life... it never stops.
But it all works due to Argento's ability to get under our skin before shocking us out of it. Before each scene of brutality, there is a wonderful buildup of suspense and terror, because even though we know what's going to happen, we're totally in the dark as to how it will occur. He keeps us waiting impatiently by employing a slowly building soundtrack, heightened by slow camera movements that center on the faces of the person involved.
"Suspiria" will remain in the memory long after its first viewing; in fact, you may never forget it. It stands out as a visionary masterpiece, one for the senses and the mind, a horror film that transcends the boundaries of the genre. I was intrigued by every minute of this film, which keeps you in the moment long after it's already passed.