Year: 1977
Production Co: Seda Spettacoli
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento
Cast: Jessica Harper

To fans of giallo horror and Dario Argento movies in particular, this is the Citizen Kane of the movement – encompassing and homaging all the hallmarks of the subgenre while introducing several more that would become icons in the pantheon.

That's what it would say on a back cover blurb written by a rabid fan, at least. To me it was an ultra-cheap, unforgivably schlocky pseudo-porn horror flick hamstrung by deficiencies in almost every area from the script to the tomato sauce special effects.

A young American dancer arrives at a prestigious European ballet school to study but on the dark and stormy night she pulls up in her taxi and rings the bell a growly voice tells her to go away.

On the same night a terrified young woman is gruesomely dispatched inside by smashed glass falling from the ceiling along with the teacher trying to calm her down. Argento's always had a strongly misogynist streak, his camera lovingly caressing the mutilated bodies of female murder victims like a voyeur watching porn.

What Suzy (Harper) doesn't know is that the senior teachers and governess of the school are beholden to dark forces, and when she is finally let in and starts her studies a series of disturbing happenings are just the beginning.

Huge splashes of primary colours fill the screen in an obvious attempt to set moods but which only had me asking 'why is a ballet school bathroom filled with red light except for the green spotlight pointing at the door?'

The overexcited cinematography might not have been such a problem if the story engaged you. Unfortunately a regular technique of Argento's was to take everything just... so... slow. In an obvious attempt to build tension (and it might have been scary on a cinema screen in 1977) it just reminds you of a porn film in another way – the constant desire to fast forward to the good bits.

If this is the classic of the genre, it belongs on the dusty end of the video store horror shelf.

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