Suspiria (1977)The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92.
She arrives at the ballet school late at night in the middle of a terrible rain storm to be confronted by a panic stricken student running out of the door screaming what seems to be complete nonsense. Whoever the student is running from soon catches her up and murders her in what has been described as "the most violent murder scene ever filmed". Suzy is told to leave by someone over the intercom so she decides to try again the next day.
The next day Suzy is welcomed into the school by the over-elaborate directress Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and her mean-spirited aide Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). Suzy soon begins to feel there is something more ominous than just ballet happening at the school but anyone who shares her suspicions seems to die in dramatic circumstances (as does anyone who pisses off Miss Tanner).
After fainting in her first class, Suzy is (forcefully) given a room in the school in which to recover, she is put on a strict diet of bland food, red wine and injections which send her into a deep sleep soon after dinner. One night, in a semi-conscious state her closest friend tries to warn that the school is a front for a witches coven founded by a legendary black witch over a century ago. Not surprisingly Suzy's closest friend soon has a run in with a murderer and a room full of razor wire.
Suzy decides to find out what's going on, sceptical about the existence of witches she speaks to a professor of psychology who specialises in the occult and he confirms that there are witches all over the world (spoken like a true scientist!). That evening, Suzy skips her meal and sneaks out of her room to discover where Madame Blanc and Miss Tanner disappear to each night. Piecing together the ramblings of the panicked student she met on her first visit to the school she finds the secret entrance to where the diabolicalness happens and discovers that the founder of the school, Helena Markos AKA Mater Suspiriorum AKA The Mother of Sighs, is not quite as dead as she should be.
I had heard that Suspiria was a classic horror movie but when I found out it was about witches I was expecting something quite corny. It is definitely not! The movie is directed like a piece of art and this more than makes up for the disjointed plot. The suspense is top notch and the visuals and camera work is outstanding. There is a lot of attention to detail in the scenery and it is often lit up in red or green to add to the overall feel of what is going on. The shocks are infrequent but when they do happen the viewer is treated to a sensual assault when the suspense is at it's maximum.
Suspiria is the first movie in Dario Argento's "Three Mothers Trilogy", followed by Inferno in 1980 and Mother of Tears released in 2007.