Suspiria / Dario Argento / 1977 / fourstar

Active Ingredients: Palpable mood; Music; Set design
Side Effects: No scares; Unnecessary exposition

How important to a film is its story? Your answer to that question could determine your enjoyment of Suspiria. Dario Argento’s twisted tale of a creepy dance academy/witches coven does tell a story, a very simple one, but it’s more interested in creating and sustaining mood. Typically, great films ensure that each scene further their stories. Suspiria, however, is a great film because each scene meticulously contributes to its cumulative mood and tenor. In a strange way, Suspiria is just as tight and cohesive as any film, but it follows a logic all its own.

Argento, an acclaimed master of lush, vivid supernatural horror, demonstrates full control over the look and feel of his film. From the first, Suspiria explodes with colors—reds, pinks, and purples primarily—both in its eerie, unnatural lighting and its detailed set design. The mood and colors are the real stars of the film, and the horror setpieces play as campy fun rather than true frights. Even the film’s camp, though, seems somehow brilliantly calibrated. It’s hard to fault a film when all its elements, even its flaws, so perfectly belong.