Cameron Lee ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The original Suspiria by the master of Giallo, Dario Argento, is widely considered to be a masterpiece in the horror genre; its candy color cinematography, graphic set pieces, and pulse-pounding score by the Goblins has influenced an entire generation of horror geeks and filmmakers. Luca Guadagnino, fresh off his amazing work on Call Me by Your Name, took it upon himself not to remake a classic, but to make his own interpretation of the original film based how he felt watching the original Suspiria in his youth. Guadagnino’s reinterpretation shares very little with the original film besides the premise and some character names. Suspiria is a sensual, bold, and ambitious horror film the likes of which are rarely seen in the genre.
The film is divided into acts with an epilogue like a Wes Anderson film, but the basic premise begins in Berlin in 1977 when a student at the Markos Dance Academy named Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) runs away from the academy and disappears under strange circumstances. Around the same time, a girl from Ohio named Susie (Dakota Johnson) auditions for the academy, gets accepted and is put under the mentorship of Madame Blanc, the head dance teacher (Tilda Swinton). But things are not what they seem as bizarre and strange incidents begin to plague the school, which may or may not involve witches locked in a power battle for control of their coven.
Just by looking at one frame of Suspiria it’s clear that this isn’t a replica of the original’s bright color palette. There’s barely any bright colors to be found; everything looks and feels cold, muted and uninviting, the color red is used sparingly for most of the film. The camera moves around quite a bit – not just during the dance scenes, but in quiet moments where it quickly zooms in on to a character’s face. There’s even a healthy dose of slow motion which is surprisingly effective especially during the film’s bloody climax.
The score by Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke provides much uneasiness and discomfort during the nearly two and a half hour runtime. Relying on piano, synthesizers, strings, and vocals from Yorke himself; the score comes to life and it is worth seeing the movie for that reason alone. When the horror does come, it’s brutal, disturbing, and gruesome.
In one memorable scene, a dancer is punished by the witches; her body is twisted until she collapses onto the floor in a mangled horrific state. It’s so gruesome that many will have to look away out of fear of vomiting. Horrific scenes such as this don’t happen very often, but when they do, they leave a visceral impact. Special shoutout to the makeup department, whose work here rivals anything that’s been put to the screen this year. From realistic bones popping out of people’s legs and arms, graphic disfigurements, to transforming Tilda Swinton into an old German man, the makeup work here is exceptional.
Suspiria isn’t so much a film about witchcraft as it is about coming to terms with pain and guilt. The setting of Berlin was a calculated choice by the creative team, as the country, while divided by the cold war, was also dealing with responsibility over the aftermath of the second world war. The film uses one major character in particular to explore that concept, and it’s done surprisingly well. No one in a million years would think that a “remake” of Suspiria would explore German collective guilt as effectively as many prestige Oscar pictures, yet somehow it does just that.
One review does not begin to cover the ambition this film tries to reach for; it doesn’t all work; it could have been a lot shorter and not lose any of its impact. It’s a film many will hate for being self-indulgent and for various reasons. Like one of its own expertly choreographed dance sequences, Suspiria is a beautifully odd and perplexing work of different ideas and concepts. Yet it’s one that takes the viewer on a journey into someone else’s dream. It doesn’t matter if people want to wake up from it or stay in it forever. They should just be happy that it exists to begin with.
Overall Grade: B+
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