Suspiria - 2018
Director(s): Luca Guadagnino
Writer(s): David Kajganich
Cinematography by: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Editor(s): Walter Fasano
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Malgorzata Bela, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth, Elena Fokina and Angela Winkler
Remakes tend to get a bad rap, in part due to that they seem as "cash-grabs," with studios banking on the pre-built fandom of the original, but mostly due to them not having anything new to say, ultimately feeling unnecessary. While the multicolored, vibrant nightmare that is Dario Argento's Suspiria is one of my favorite horror movies of all-time, I can see that there was plenty of meat left in the bones of that story. A remake or a retelling which is the case here is not a preposterous idea, especially in the hands of such a talented director, Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name). Walking out of this movie you cannot help to have a "what the hell did I just watch" taste in your mouth that only a good beer will wash away. Let's talk about it.
The story takes place at a world-renowned dance company located in 1977's West Berlin. Susie Bannion (Johnson), a young American dancer arrives at the doors of the company hoping to audition for the famed choreographer, Madame Blanc (Swinton) and become part of the core stable of dancers. After a captivating and intense audition, Madame Blanc is instantly enamored with Susie and accepts her into the company, making her the lead dancer of their upcoming performance piece. Only later do we find out that she is also part of a much darker plan.
Quick note: this will be the most divisive horror movie of the year. I understand why someone would either love or hate this movie. I loved it.
I usually start with the positives and close out with some negatives, but how about with switch things up a bit. Yes, I loved the movie, but it has many issues. Mainly the length (2hrs 32mins), this movie could use a healthy amount of trimming as it is asking too much of the audience's attention and stomach. The multiple conversations between the women running the company can be reduced to one or two key moments. The script cuts back to the old-man too often, and it takes away from the events taking place at the company. They give him too much backstory to justify his involvement in the investigation of the company, and it ultimately doesn't matter. The dream sequences are a bit indulgent as well.
Moving on to the positives, this is the best example of how you should do a remake. Kajganich’s script focuses more on the company and their faith and desires rather than Susie discovering the dark meaning behind the dances performed. The relationship between Madame Blanc and Susie is compelling and complexed, giving the final reveal more weight to all the events leading up to it. He divided the movie in a “six acts and an epilogue set in divided Berlin.”, and the sixth act is where many will decide to stick with the story or call BS. Kajganich indulges in the dark nature of the company and doubles down on the rituals and its effect on the people around them. I was smiling along with the craziness unfolding, but I can see it being a huge turnoff for some. This movie is the fraternal twin of its 1977s counterpart, and you can see they came from the same idea but ultimately, they look nothing alike.
Quick note: while it is not the same hyper-colored world that the original lived in, the sets and the costumes are not devoid of color and warmth.
Luca Guadagnino's direction leaves nothing to be desired. He is a student of the horror genre as he managed to evoke all the classics, with his blocking, framing, and angles. I especially enjoyed his use of dolly zooms and sound transitions. Guadagnino and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom gave the camera a spectral quality looming over all the dancers, letting the audience know there is always something else in the room with them. The camera does not shy away from the blood and gore, giving us some twisted and disturbing body horror sequences. The dance numbers are shot and edited in an enthralling way, sucking in the audience through sound and visuals. The use of practical effects mixed in with CGI was well balanced, and the make-up used on Swinton and is beyond impressive.
Quick note: Tom Yorke’s original score is heart pounding, confusing and captivating, even though it is used sparingly.
The acting is a bit all over the place. The physical performances from all the dancers, especially Johnson's double is impressive as they managed to convey more emotion and angst than their acting counterparts. Dakota Johnson is good, far better than in her outings on the Fifty Shades franchise. She fell flat on some line delivery, but her facial expressions were on point, especially when paired with Swinton. Now that I mention Swinton, this movie belongs to her and her multiple roles. Swinton continues to be one of if not the most versatile actor working today. Her portrayal of Madame Blanc was mesmerizing, and I understood what everyone around her saw. She draws you in through her eyes and captures you with the faintest smile, as Dr. Josef Klemperer (the old man), she is broken, hunted, and yet determined to help the dancers, motivated by his past failures of not protecting his wife. Finally, as Helena Markos, a grotesque thing claiming to be a woman, controlling the company from behind the scenes. Her line delivery is disturbing, matching her physique, as every word she utters barely escapes her throat.
Suspiria without a doubt will be a subject of many hot debates between fans of the horror genre, and lovers of the art of filmmaking in general. Luca showcased complete control over every aspect of the movie. On a technical point, this movie excels head and shoulders above many of the horror movies coming out today. While I wish the film showed restraint in the amount of story it wanted to convey, 2hrs and 34mins is a lot to ask given the subject matter; I applaud their boldness and desire to distance themselves from the original as much as possible. Elevated by its great director, a bone-chilling score, unnerving visuals pair with excellent sound design and just a powerhouse performance from Tilda Swinton. Her performance alone is worth a watch. Swinton is why I love movies.
Suspiria is currently playing in theaters. Who knows, maybe you are in the "I loved it" camp, I sure did.
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