+ Recommended – R, Horror, Supernatural, Drama (152 minutes)
Dario Argento’s 1977 film of the same name is regarded as staple horror classic within the genre. From the pristine neon lighting to the grisly violence, Suspiria (1977) lets the audience simmer in the looming horrors of a prestigious dance academy located in Germany. The academy’s students end up missing, dead, or in a definitive state of paranoia. Outside of the setting and the horrors within the academy, this retelling doesn’t take many of the plot threads of the original. However, Suspiria (2018) director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) deconstructs several concepts from its predecessor in a devilishly delightful, yet very horrific way.
Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), a young girl from Ohio, gets accepted into the dance academy of her dreams located in Berlin, Germany, at the time of division. A world-renowned instructor and Susie’s idol, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), resides at this school. At first, her life remains grounded in certain reality but as time passes she becomes increasingly aware of odd activity within the confines of the school’s walls. There’s talk of darkness. Talk of death. It becomes clear that this venture may not have been the one she initially signed up for.
In the original, a death occurred, on average, every 11 minutes but the remake doesn’t follow the same path. Comparing the times of both films–the original around 90 minutes and the remake at 152 minutes–it’s clear that there are two distinct approaches. Without spoiling anything, Guadagnino relishes in a slow-burn style approach; a style he utilized when filming Call Me by Your Name. From the very beginning, he chooses to explain what exactly is happening, and he leaves it up to you to decide if you wish to believe it. The film is divided into a total of six acts and an epilogue which is displayed right at the beginning. You know what you’re in for.
Most performances are minimalist in nature, i.e. non-expressive facial movements, yet the actors find a way to layer each character. Tilda Swinton will haunt your nightmares, and yet, you won’t be able to abstain from watching her. Dakota Johnson makes for a very likable protagonist, however, it feels like she’s moved to the sidelines at times to favor the academy instructors’ time on screen. Unlike the 1977 version, the color pallet is muted, subverting the primary expectation that fans might of had during the initial announcement of a remake; those euphoric colors are seared into the minds of everyone who has seen the original.
Among other aspects of the original, Guadagnino did choose to keep the tight, optical zooms for added dramatic effect. It can be jarring for audiences who aren’t used to stylistic cinematography, but does overall amplify the feeling of dread. Musical scores are used sparingly as to ensure a nail-biting experience within the dry air, which can be used to describe the air in the theatre as well. And wow, does Suspiria (2018) give plenty of attention to detail with the intricate dance sequences; there are numerous scenes in which a whole number is completed.
Let’s talk about that ending. It’s not often that I nearly look away from the screen during a horror movie, with the primary exception being Raw (2016), but Suspiria (2018) does, indeed, have a sequence that I still haven’t fully processed. To say the least: it’s deeply disturbing, but nonetheless bloody effective. Film fans who appreciate dread or suspense horror will appreciate Suspirira (2018), but it also clears enough space for lovers of complete insanity in their horror films. It won’t satisfy everyone, or probably even the majority of viewers, but those who appreciate it will find a worthy re-imagining worth revisiting. The central concepts of the first remain yet more risks are taken for people who crave constant evolution.