Suzy (Jessica Harper) enters a German Dance School, only to soon realize
that something is weird about this place - a feeling only strengthened
by the fact that one of her fellow students has been murdered the very
same night she arrives. Immediately on the first day she - at dance
training - is forced by her teacher Miss Tanner (Alida Valli) to train until she faints, & she gets
prescribed a rather weird diet by the school's doctor Verdegast (Renato
Scarpa). The same night it starts raining maggots from the ceiling,
& even though the school's principal Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett)
explains it away as some sloppy work done in the attic, it is another
sign that not everything is alright.
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So Suzy & her best friend Sara
(Stefania Casini) - who has also grown suspicious of the goings-on in
the school - try to figure out what actually is wrong with the school,
& - which seems to be the key to the mystery - where the teachers go
at night. But because her special diet was drugged, Suzy does not manage
to stay awake during their investigations - & the next night most of
Sara's notes are gone, stolen from her room. But Sara, again confronted
with a drugged & sleeping Suzy knows someone is after her &
flees through teh many corridors of the school - until she meets her end
caught up by rolls & rolls of sharp wire.
The next day, Suzy,
requesting about Sara's whereabouts, gets no satisfying answer, thus she
calls one of Sara's friends, doctor Frank Mandel (Udo Kier), who fills
her in with the backgrounds of her dancing school, as it once was an
academy for the occult, founded by an alleged witch, Elena Marcos, about
a hundred years ago. Back at the school, which she finds oddly deserted
by all students, Suzy tries to find out the secret of the place on her
own, her only clue a note that Sara left with her, & she indeed does find a
secret passageway, where she promptly stumbles over Sara's corpse &
overhears Madame Blanc discussing her demise. But she also finds Elena
Marcos, the witch, able to dematerialize herself & thus not easy to
kill. But to make Sara's corpse attack Suzy, she has to materialize
herself if only for a short instance - long enough for Suzy to plunge a
knife into her. The Dance-academy starts to tumble down, & Suzy
manages to escape in the nick of time.
Suspiria, Dario Argento's first supernatural thriller, marked
his final triumph of style over story. Though the plot is said to be
based on the writings of Thomas De Quincey, & it is on the surface
fascinatingly labyrinthine - which is also mirrored in many of the
carefully designed sets -, it does make little sense & furthermore
differs surprisingly little from Dario Argento's non-supernatural
thrillers. But Argento - contrary to most other style obsessed directors
- manages to perfectly marry his cleverly composed pictures &
soundscapes to his scenes of horror & suspense, making this one of
the true masterpieces of horror-cinema.
By the way, for 2005 an
American remake of Suspiria is announced. Do not even give it the
benefit of the doubt !