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Suspiria Reviews

The original ad campaign boasted that the only thing more terrifying than the last five minutes of SUSPIRIA were the first 90. Actually, it's the first 15 minutes that contain some of the most frightening footage ever committed to celluloid, but why quibble. American dance student Susy Banyon (Jessica Harper) arrives too late at night to gain admittance to her new school, Tanz Academy, but before returning to town, Susy witnesses a hysterical student, Pat (Eva Axen), fleeing the grounds in terror. By the time Susy begins classes the next day, Pat has been brutally murdered, although the academy, under the watchful eyes of administrator Madame Blank (Joan Bennett), fearsome dance instructor Miss Tanner (Alida Valli), and the school's directress, who never appears in public, insists she was expelled. Pat's death is just the first in a string of bizarre occurrences at the school that include a mysterious maggot infestation, phantom breathing, and several more gruesome murders. Unlike many of the films it has inspired, Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA has lost little of its hallucinatory power over the years. Although anyone with an ounce of common sense would have checked out of Tanz Academy tout de suite, the film floats by on its own eerie logic, unfolding like a nightmare into which the viewer is dragged kicking and screaming. Not since James Whale's expressionist masterworks (1932's THE OLD DARK HOUSE and 1935's THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN) has a fright film boasted such impressive art direction and scenic design: the Tanz Academy might have been created by Erte for balletomane descendants of the Marquis de Sade. Throughout this nerve-wracking journey, Argento's sly gift is to strike when you least expect it, often when the soundtrack grows silent, and always after you've expected the knife blade to plunge in earlier.