It's hard to say what makes Italian director Dario Argento's 1977 cult classic, Suspiria, so creepy. Though it comes on like a horror film (even the title's scary), the overall effect is that of a bizarre, kitschy stage production. Featuring elaborate but charmingly crude sets, blood that looks like house paint and hot '70s chicks in niptacular dancing duds — it's surprising Broadway hasn't seized on this like it did Grey Gardens. The plot would be perfect too: young American ballerina "Suzy," played appealingly by Jessica Harper, travels to a fancy German ballet school only to discover that it's a confusing, murderous, maggot-infested mess. Between her neurotic roommate, a cruel ballet teacher and a supremely metrosexual love interest — Suzy's got her cute '70s hands full. Throw in a coven of witches and you've pretty much got Valley of the Dolls meets House of Wax. But for all of its campy glory, Suspiria is not without a few chills — as well as a particularly disturbing dog attack. Intended as the first installment of Argento's The Three Mothers trilogy (Inferno came out in 1980 and The Third Mother is due this year), Suspiria is considered by many to be the filmmaker's masterwork. Come for the stylized Italian sets; stay for the psychedelic Italian cheese.


Screens at midnight on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3-4, at the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.

Wendy Case writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to

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