Reviewed on 2009 November 21
I’m doing a review of this old-school Dario Argento flick before the remake, with the threat of Natalie “but the recession is an exciting time!” Portman in the Jessica Harper role no less, is foisted upon us. I’m going to avoid the remake, but if you choose to try it you now have time to track down a premium DVD of the original and inoculate yourself.
Suzy Bannion (Harper) comes to a German academy to study dance, and from the beginning she’s in for it, poor thing; she arrives in the middle of a stormy night to see a distressed woman running out of the academy and into the forest. The obviously terrified girl tears blindly into the rain as the music from Argento’s pet group Goblin shrieks away on the soundtrack, and that’s the most normal part of the movie. The rest is a combination of the stories your big brother terrified you with as a small child when your parents left the room, and the kind of nightmares induced by fevers, as Suzy finds out the academy is a front for a coven of powerful witches.
I’ve heard a lot of people, even people who enjoy it as much as me, say that it’s not scary. Well, no, not really, but in it’s own sick way it is cool. It’s one of the flashiest movies I’ve ever seen, and I admit it’s also gruesome. (I mention that because most of my friends loved it but one wondered what on earth I was thinking when I showed it to her.) The colors and the pacing and just general screwiness make it feel like you’re in the middle of somebody else’s bad dream. I’ve read that Argento wanted this to feel like an evil European fairy tale, and it does. Co-writer Daria Nicolodi says she and Dario were inspired by the tales her grandmother told of being at a music academy where the teachers practiced the black arts when they weren’t teaching the kids. Come on, can a remake top that?
Three chocolate morsels.