Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini
Director: Dario Argento
Suzy, an American ballerina goes to Germany to study at a prestigious school, but soon realises that there’s something wrong with the teachers after a series of murders and strange happenings occur.
Essentially in plot a slasher film, the suspense builds around the murder of students and people associated with the school, and once Suzy’s friend and student of the school go missing, she is forced to confront the happenings head on. However, the horror is more in the suspense and the atmosphere created by the weirdness of the film than in the murders themselves.
It’s a must see because: Dario Argento is one of the major directors who created what was called giallo horror, a movement in Italian horror films that had a great deal of influence on other film makers. And this film was considered to be his master work.
It’s an incredible piece of cinema. It uses strong, theatrical green and red lighting to create a strange visual look. The sets are very bright, stylised, a bit like German Expressionist sets. They dwarf the characters, they utilise stunning design, painterly touches to create a nightmare like feeling, though the locations, away from the school, are by contrast drab and normal. The murders are cruel, bloody and violent, but the blood is orange, it all has a fake, theatrical look. It manages to be scary and surreal at the same time. The score, by musical group The Goblins, is amazing: it’s weird, dissonant, loud, chanting, urgent, it cuts off abruptly with changes in emotion, but above all, it’s really terrifying and suspenseful. The story itself is really good, with the girl piecing things together, trying to figure out what’s going on, and slowly finding the horrifying truth, but it’s the way that the film creates suspense, the way that the sound sync is slightly off, the edits, it’s so stylised and creepy as a whole, it’s like watching a nightmare, even though the effects are dated. Truly incredible.
See It If: I think if you’re a fan of horror, you have to see this film, but I think too if you like art films, this one is one for you too.