Can you feel it? I can feel it. We’re almost to the top 10!
From here on out this is serious business. Many of the scenes I’ve covered so far have been fun or cool set-pieces, or have been contextually interesting, but the remainder are going to be more intense, and today’s scene is exactly that. The kill coming in at #11 is from Dario Argento’s colorful, kaleidoscopic classic Suspiria.
There isn’t too much set-up here because the scene I’m covering is right at the beginning.
Late one stormy night, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives by taxi at a dance school in Germany where she is a new pupil. Before she gets out of the car she sees a woman, Pat (Eva Axen), exit the school in a hurry and yell something indiscernible into the wind before running away. Suzy approaches the school requesting entry but is turned away.
Frustrated, she gets back into the taxi and heads to town to find a hotel for the night. While driving, she sees Pat running frantically through the woods, with Goblin’s awesome score seemingly causing an hallucinatory effect and adding to the surrealism of the visuals.
Next we find Pat shacked up at a friend’s place. She’s terrified and has no plans of staying any longer than the one night. She’s so spooked she’s unable to even describe what she’s afraid of. Eventually, her friend says goodnight and Pat is left alone in the room with a serious case of the willies.
Of note early in this film is the much-praised color scheme, but also the geometric shapes that form defined patterns in the house. The glass ceiling, the floor, the doorways, and the corridors are all creepily symmetrical. These patterns create a sense of order in your mind which makes the kill more terrifying, because not only is there personal harm to the character but the order and balance of the environment gets irrevocably altered. That sense of order is gone, and it’s some of these architectural elements that cause the ancillary kill in this scene.
Back in the room, Pat is still spooked and she keeps thinking something, or someone, is outside her window. She looks and sees nothing, but then she grabs a desk lamp and shines it out the window and we get our first creepy image: a hideous set of eyes in the darkness staring right at her.
Before Pat can react, an arm crashes through the window and pins her against the window while she screams her lungs out. Her friend hears her screams and desperately begs for help while we cut back to see Pat being stabbed multiple times by that same hairy arm that attacked her at the window.
I’ll let the rest of the scene speak for itself, but the brutality and sheer brightness of the horror in this scene was not something commonly seen in American cinema at the time. This is something that sets Argento and other giallo directors apart. The bluntness of the violence mixed with the vivid colors and cinematography were a sub-genre all on their own.
Ok, folks, that’s it for this scene. I hope you enjoy the video and don’t forget to check back on Thursday as we crack the top 10 on my list of The Best Horror Movie Kills of All-Time!