After seeing so many fantastic posters for Luca Guadagnino’s highly anticipated remake of the classic giallo film, I finally watched Suspiria in all its hypnotic madness. Starring Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, and Chloe Grace Moretz, Suspiria follows a young American dancer who attends a German dance academy that holds dark, violent secrets. As a whole, the film is visually and thematically different than its predecessor, trading in Argento’s colorful and over-the-top styles for muted tones and increased intensity. Of course, this is a remake of a favorite among horror fans, but in many ways, Guadagnino’s vision dances to a different tune entirely. The idea of witches running the academy is introduced early into the film (save the original’s plot-solidifying musical score by Goblin, whose lyrics include the word “witch” from the start), implying that further twists will be revealed. And boy, they sure are. But this is a spoiler-free zone! You’ll have to see the film for yourselves for those.
What the film certainly gets right is its stellar cast. Swinton’s character is a somewhat softer version of the original, treating the girls at the academy as a family, and showing that she does care for them, if not a bit suspiciously so. As for Johnson, I have to say, her work as Susie Bannon is superb. In hindsight, the depth of her character glows throughout. Her dedication to dance runs deep, and her bond with the academy and its staff grows strong, whereas in the first film, Susie’s suspicions are alerted rather soon in the film. And Goth and Moretz’s characters are mesmerizing in their uniqueness. Their reactions to the goings-on at the school are magnified as the film progresses, resulting in some heart-pounding scenes.
Tone is used well in this iteration of Suspiria, which saves it from some rather forgettable and time-consuming subplots. We’re given a lot more of the psychologist’s character in this film, implying that he will provide more to the story than he did in the original. But it only seems to overstuff the film with characters who, to put it bluntly, we’re just not interested in. And the addition of political backdrop does provide some good layers of perspective and setting, but it’s long overdrawn and not entirely necessary. Cutting these down could have shaved a good 45 minutes off the film’s lengthy 2 hour and 35 minute runtime, a big portion of the film’s downfalls.
Some of my favorite things about this film are its uses of camera techniques and its score, helmed by Radiohead frontrunner Thom Yorke. They each lend a lot of tension and character to the film, much like that of the original Argento classic. Quick cuts during scenes of violence and intriguingly awkward camera tracking movements create the unease that serves as Suspiria’s foundation. And Yorke’s score, while sometimes oddly placed, is looming and creepy, which is just what makes the film thrive. In a way, the score leads the way in this beautiful, horrific dance. And the technical aspects of the film pay homage to 1970’s horror while also laying more bricks onto this road of modern psychological horror. I would place this into many of the same categories as The Witch and Hereditary, two recent horror films that pepper in unforgettable scenes into well-written stories. They each have simple concepts wrapped in layers of complexity that leave their audiences dumbfounded and in need of a cold shower.
While Suspiria does receive this baton from similar recent films, it doesn’t exactly run with it with the right speed or pace. It suffers from some coughs and hiccups, but doesn’t keep me entirely fed up with it. I’m still itching to revisit it after some time, perhaps with a coffee or a soda. And although strange and baffling, I’m still interested in seeing that big climax again, in all its red-soaked insanity. So, if you’re willing to sit through 2 ½ hours of detail-oriented pseudo art-house horror, I’d say to give it a shot. It’s thought provoking, enticing, and a fun conversation starter. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a colorful slasher like the ‘70’s giallo film, you might want to stick with that one.
Let me know what you thought of Suspiria! Were you as roped in as I was? Leave a comment below.
Until next time!
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