Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Top 20 Horror Movies - #15) Suspiria (1977)

One of the things that I'm doing this month as I celebrate Halloween here in the Land of Way is taking the time to rank my Top 20 Horror Movies and my Top 20 Horror Novels.

I want to be clear that I'm basing these choices on my own humble opinion.  I'm not trying to rank these movies in accordance with their place in pop culture, but I'm offering up my take on the best horror films that I have ever watched and enjoyed.  There are some familiar candidates that I consider to be great pictures that didn't make the cut because there wasn't room, and there are some films that are widely regarded as great pictures that didn't make the cut because I feel that they are overrated.  There are also a few instances where it was difficult to determine whether or not a movie belonged to the horror genre (I said "no" to Aliens but "yes" to Jaws), and it may also be worth noting that this is largely a modern list (as long as you're okay with my classification of modern as anything after 1960) that only features one lonely creature from the so-called "Classic Monsters" films produced by Universal Studios.

Thus far, the list includes:

#20) The Fly (1986) 
#19) The Howling (1981)
#18) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
#17) Alien (1979) 
#16) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 

So far, we've been hanging with monsters, werewolves, zombies, and aliens.  Today, we keep the late 70s motif that started at #17 alive and invite some witches to the party.

Top 20 Horror Movies - #15) Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria, a gruesome nightmare that many consider the finest example of Italian horror, is one of two such pictures to make my list.  The other is also directed by Dario Argento, a gifted filmmaker who spent much of the 70s and 80s churning out stunning motion pictures before descending into mediocrity in the 90s and beyond.  This inventive yarn is a dark fairy tale of sorts, with a roving camera and a bold color palette which give the picture a surreal tone that is positively enchanting.  The score by Goblin is one of the most striking scores that the horror genre has ever been blessed with, and the bloody effects work is top-notch.  The script is simple but effective; Jessica Harper's Suzy Bannion travels to a prestigious dance school where something is seriously amiss.  After a number of grisly murders occur and our heroine starts to investigate some spooky shenanigans taking place, Suzy discovers that the academy is merely a front for a coven of witches.  Argento was at his peak here, and the ominous atmosphere and the outright terror that he is able to conjure up throughout this fascinating picture is damn impressive.  Some of the kills in this movie are incredibly disturbing, and there are a handful of less violent sequences in the mix that are ridiculously creepy.  The cast performs well, with Harper giving her best performance and genre vet Udo Kier popping up in a brief but welcome part.  Despite his recent misfires, of which there are many, I still consider Dario Argento a legend in the realm of horror cinema for his incredible body of work--and Suspiria undoubtedly ranks among his very best.  In fact, while I favor another picture (those who follow my blog closely are already aware of this, but the rest of you will have to wait and see), most probably consider this to be his greatest achievement.

I'm not sure which of Suspiria's potent assets is more impressive, Dario's deft camera work or the surreal color palette.

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