Suspiria (1977) dir. Dario Argento I have limited experience with giallo, but Suspiria immediately seems notably less exploitative, at least sexually. The movie is set in a ballet school co-ed dormitory, with young nubile girls sharing secrets, shoes and a swimming pool. Yet, none of the opportunities that would naturally strike a director's mind - especially a director of a horror movie - are seized upon. The swimsuits are one-piece, the pajamas are modest, and the closest anyone gets to sexual contact is when Suzy makes eyes at the cute porter. This is a far cry from the way sex was used in my other exposure to the genre, Cannibal Holocaust.
Suspiria is hardly pro-feminist. It's a bit tough to be when your movie is about witches. How, of course, could a woman be independently successful and wealthy without supernatural powers? As everyone points out, females are almost only the protagonists of horror films, just as African-Americans are almost only the protagonists of comedies.
If Suspiria is shy about showing nipples, is makes up for it with a close-up shot of an open heart being brutally stabbed. I'll spare the surprise of the most horrifying death scene. But even then, the horror is about well-crafted irony rather than simple shock.
Suspiria doesn't rely on sudden volume spikes or shoehorned "twist" endings, or even really gore to horrify. It is patient and takes its time telling the story. The bright Technicolor expressionist sets, the intelligent sound mixing, and the wonderfully terrible score by Goblin create a nightmare world.