What the fuck? I mean, what the fuck?
According to numerous sources, it’s Dario Argento’s horror masterpiece. So why was I laughing? And checking my watch? Or spending half the time in the kitchen hunting for potato chips? From where I sit, it’s an allegory for the Allied liberation of Europe during World War II. Either that, or the entire thing takes place inside of a woman’s vagina. In terms of lighting imagery, there’s lots of red, equal amounts of blue, and a shit load of green. In order: danger, fear, and sexual longing. Though to no real end. It’s a dream and a nightmare and so fucking insane. Kinda. Or not at all. Moody like one of those old Black Sabbath videos. And there’s walking. A whole lot of walking. And I suspect the editor was drunk.
What’s the setting?
Taking place at a demented dance academy in Deutschland (with the usual tight-lipped headmaster), it has the most bizarre opening sequence of the period. Rain falls, water flows, lightning crashes, and the soundtrack — filled with the music of the rock group Goblin — pierces the eardrum. Fuck, was it loud. In case you didn’t catch the water, dramatic zooms highlight the, um, scary wetness of it all. It’s loud, obnoxious, unrelenting, and wholly without sense. Before long, a woman is attacked, another knocks furiously at her door, and both are dispatched with a rope and falling glass. Welcome!
Who’s Susy Banyon and why the fuck is she here?
She’s the American on board, attending the school because she alone must survive, discover the secrets, and set fire to the whole damn thing. She’s immediately taunted by swarthy figures armed with prisms, then sickened, and finally sent to bed without food. And forced to drink water. It’s telling that as the one cursed with mosquito bite breasts, she will expose the joint as a coven, because virginity is the best shield from evil. So yeah, the chick below was a whore.
Deaths to report?
One by one, the girls are murdered by unseen forces, though at no time is a sense of terror generated. It’s kinda funny when the one chick falls into a pit of razor wire, which may represent feminism’s frantic attack against patriarchy. Or a metaphor for life under Il Duce. Or what it feels like to watch 8 1/2. Whatever the case, here’s to a ballet school not so snooty that it can’t set death traps for well-paying pupils. But stay open for 100 years they do. Oh, and the blind dude is savagely attacked by his own seeing-eye dog. Fucking thing just up and rips out his throat. Tears off a few pieces of his neck for good measure. Why, exactly? Seems the old hound heard something strange in the air while standing in an open square with buildings made to look the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s like Peter Greenaway eating David Lynch’s stool.
So what is really going on? Witches, or the work of the Devil?
Oh, it’s a witch, alright, and one over a century old at that. Susy searches the school one eerie night and finds a hidden door. Behind it lies a creepy room with a curtain, which hides the head witch in charge from view. She’s leathery and decayed, and suffers from one helluva bad case of sleep apnea. She taunts Susy, scares up a mess of furniture and wind, and the whole things concludes with an inferno. The usual 98 minutes made to feel like 170.
Not scary, not entertaining, horribly acted, and containing the cinema’s worst musical score. Brilliant. The message boards on imdb said so.