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Friday, January 13, 2017

Suspiria

I have a few more witch movies to go, one of them being Suspiria, a 1977 film directed by schlock-master Dario Argento. Set in Germany, it concerns a young dancer (Jessica Harper), enrolling at a prestigious dance school. But strange things are happening. First, one of the students run out into a storm and takes refuge in a friend's apartment. She sees ghostly eyes out of her window, and then is stabbed repeatedly.

Later, a blind man is attacked by his service dog, maggots infest the place, and Harper learns that the school was founded by a woman who was thought to be a witch. One of her friends ends up falling into a pit of razor wire.

Suspiria is certainly vividly rendered, with anamorphic lenses and lurid colors (red filters are frequently used, setting a mood but making things difficult to see). The film seems to have been shot on a measly budget, and the music, by a band called Goblins, is mixed much too loudly, while the dialogue is barely audible. Argento made a lot of these movies and is venerated by some, but he's not a very good technical filmmaker.

Also, the plot doesn't make sense. If the dance school is indeed a front for a coven, just what are they up to? They don't seem to be turning the girls into witches, or eating them, or anything else nefarious. It just seems like it was written in to give the film an evil overtone (unlike many witch films, Satan's name is not invoked). The film is gory, but the special effects are not that good, so even when a woman is stabbed directly in her beating heart it shouldn't spook anyone. I found the whole thing unpleasant without being thrilling.

Jessica Harper had a short but interesting career. She was in a few high profile films of the early '80s, like Stardust Memories, Pennies From Heaven, and My Favorite Year, but not much after that. According to Wikipedia she is now writing children's books. She was a very interesting actress, too bad she didn't do more films.

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