Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo follows an American ballet student (Jessica Harper) who goes to Germany to attend the most prestigious dance school in Europe. Imagine the Grand Budapest Hotel converted into an abattoir.
A horror tour de force, this Italian classic is art directed to within an inch of its life and mad as a mouthful of maggots. The colours are garishly bright and predominantly red, in a serious attempt by Argento to reproduce the colour of Disney’s Snow White; the music by Italian band Goblin deafeningly loud to the point of calling it Shushspiria; and the set design so grandiose that even Michael Jackson wouldn’t want to live there.
The result might best be described as Rosemary’s Baby on acid; a multi-sensory assault that mixes surrealist gore and blinding aesthetics together in a massive cauldron. Honestly it’s like listening to Deftones in a sauna.
However discombobulating the plot, one can only marvel at Argento’s style which harks back to early expressionist horror while pushing the genre forwards at breakneck pace. It remains one of the best-looking and most influential horror films ever made; Wes Craven appears to have studied its mission-statement opening for that of Scream, while Nicolas Winding Refn has repeatedly replicated its sickly neon glow with diminishing returns.
Stylish and uncompromising, Suspiria is a witchy, technicolour nightmare that feels like a demented Wizard of Oz. With a remake due in November, the original screams out to be seen. Murder has never looked so good.