Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Those who doubt the artistic potential of the horror genre should be nailed down and made to watch this."

This is a film which you need to see on a big screen with a good sound system. If that's not possible, wait until it is. You'd be impressed anyway, but it would be wrong to deprive yourself of the full splendour of Argento's vision.

For those unfamiliar with the work of the Italian master, Suspiria will be a double delight. It is, without a doubt, his finest work. From the very first shot right up until the closing credits, its brilliant visuals will take your breath away. Though he was working on a tiny budget, Argento uses colour and light with such precision as to give the impression that he was able to shoot each scene an unlimited number of times. His vivid reds and searing whites contrast with sussurating blues and edgy greens; when we are watching a blind character walking alone, everything slips into luscious shades of grey. This is horror shot with dazzling energy yet with the visual depth and acuity of a Renaissance painting. Those who doubt the artistic potential of the horror genre should be nailed down and made to watch it.

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Argento's visuals work in perfect harmony with the soundtrack he helped Goblins to compose, full of complex shifting melodies which play on the subconscious, adding to the sensation of lurking danger. The film is set in a ballet academy where young American Suzy Bannion (expertly played by Jessica Harper) begins to suspect that something is amiss. Fellow students are going missing and there are rumours of witchcraft. As she begins to investigate, Argento increases the tension almost unbearably. Small things - a bat in a closet, the aggressive techniques of the teachers, the cliqueishness of some of the other girls - build up into a tremendous sense of oppression, and real fear is not far behind.

Argento is a master of misdirection. This is not crisp packet bursting, shock-dependent horror; it's relentless and creeping. Terror is often where you didn't expect it. Even when you do, it's almost impossible to look away. The beauty of this film is hypnotic. It draws the viewer in, casting a spell of its own. It is utterly bewitching.

Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2008
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A young ballet dancer uncovers a sinister conspiracy in this masterpiece of surrealist horror.
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Director: Dario Argento

Writer: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi

Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Alida Valli, Udo Kier

Year: 1977

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy

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Mother Of Tears
The Wicker Man