Clive Barker once described Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA as what you would imagine a horror film to be like if you were not allowed to see it. I believe that this is a good description of what is unquestionably one of the most entertaining and colorful horror films ever made. The first in a projected trilogy concerning the nature of Death, SUSPIRIA, which means "sighs" or "whispers", is short on plot but long on style. This has always been a major criticism weighed against it, though I've often regarded Argento's films as akin to falling asleep and having a nightmare. His films are nightmares to be enjoyed. So what if they don't make sense?
SUSPIRIA is unique in that it was shot using the now-defunct three-strip Technicolor dye transfer process which divided the negative into three color bands of red, green, and blue. By manipulating the intensities of these primary colors in the lab, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli was able to create some truly horrific and stunning images.
Suzy Banyon, played by doe-eyed Jessica Harper, arrives in Germany to begin dance lessons at the famous Tanz Academie. Unbeknownst to her, the school is really a front for a coven of witches who hold black masses within the massive building's stealthy labyrinths. This simple premise permits Argento to stage some of his most shocking and elaborate death sequences. Goblin provides a phenomenal score that, unbelieveably, was composed before filming even began.
The color scheme seems to have been inspired by Walt Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES, but the bare-bones story seems lifted from Chicho Ib��ez-Serrador's LA RESIDEN, a terrific horror opus from 1969 that has appeared under such titles as THE FINISHING SCHOOL, THE BOARDING SCHOOL, and THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED, and deserves to be released on DVD.
If you haven't seen SUSPIRIA, be sure to catch up with the new DVD which boasts the best picture quality the film has been seen in thus far.