When I was a kid, WPIX Channel 11 from New York would run Chiller Theatre from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday nights, playing sci-fi and horror movies. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this mix of schlocky 60s Japanese monster movies and the bloodier baroque horrors coming from Europe.
WPIX would always show a trailer at 10 p.m. right before the nightly news for a horror movie opening that weekend. I can distinctly remembering being absolutely scared out of my socks by the trailer for Dario Argento’s 1977 horror movie Suspiria. Evidently I could only stand to watch the first 20 seconds, probably running to hide under my bed once the woman brushing her hair turns around to the camera, as THAT is the only part I remember at all.
For some reason, I never did get to see the film. It had a reputation for being another of those misogynistic slasher films that is more about half naked women trying to escape some slow walking maniac with a knife than anything with intelligence. But last weekend Turner Movie Classics showed Suspiria on its TCM Underground program and I stayed up to the wee hours watching it and found myself actually enjoying it.
Aside from the gory, elaborate colorful deaths (this was the last film made using the Technicolor process) there is a fairy tale aspect to this story of a young dancer being sent to a ballet school run by a coven of evil witches. Think The Red Shoes by way of The Omen. It has a wild soundtrack by the group Goblin, gorgeous set design and some pretty horrific scenes, like a woman falling into a room filled with razor wire. The film ends up on a lot of best of lists and while I would not compare it to more dramatically tighter horror films like The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby, it has a certain loud originality and charm that cannot be overlooked.
Susan: this is not a film for you.