Main cast: Dakota Johnson (Susanna Bannion), Tilda Swinton (Madame Blanc, Mother Helena Markos, Dr Josef Klemperer), Mia Goth (Sara Simms), Angela Winkler (Miss Tanner), Ingrid Caven (Miss Vendegast), Elena Fokina (Olga Ivanova), Małgosia Bela (Mrs Bannion), Fabrizia Sacchi (Pavla), Jessica Harper (Anke Meier), and Chloë Grace Moretz (Patricia Hingle)
Director: Luca Guadagnino
This remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 movie of the same name is also an exercise of an arty-farty director trying very hard to turn genre films into high art. Previous efforts by similar folks invariably ended up as things only equally pretentious critics were obligated to love, and the worst examples are always when these people try to “art”-ify horror films. Fortunately, this Suspiria is more palatable than, say, another recent turd like mother!. Perhaps it’s because the original material was an actual horror film instead of a navel-gazing affair, but I have to admit, the original movie is already quite a pretty pretentious hip trip. This one ups the hip trip factor, so don’t watch this one expecting a clear or coherent conclusion.
Susie Bannion is a young lady who shows up at the Tanz Dance Academy in Berlin to audition. She hasn’t received any professional training, but she exhibits enough grace and poise to especially impress Madame Blanc, one of the matrons who run the academy. However, things are not what they appear in the all-girls dance school – students had vanished without a trace, and it is likely that the matrons are witches, with the dancing that takes place in the academy actually being rituals conducted to usher in something bad… very bad.
That’s basically where the similarity between this movie and the 1977 version ends. This new version injects some political elements – this one is set during the German Autumn days – but I personally feel that these elements feel perfunctory and poorly developed; they can be easily overlooked without affecting the flow of the story. More significantly, the movie ramps up the whole womanhood hippie-dipstick meets Satan vibe to new levels. There is plenty of female nudity here, but it is presented in a raw, earthy manner more to flaunt femininity in a non-sexual, in-your-face manner than to titillate. Here, dance is presented as an eerie yet graceful way to evoke and channel the darker, frightening aspects of femininity – the aspects that could harm and even kill without remorse. Even the cast is a statement of sorts – it is composed entirely of women, with the sole male character played by Tilda Swinton as one of her many roles in this movie.
The acting is adequate – the script doesn’t allow for much room for character development, to be honest – while the CGI in the gore scenes is serviceable. The latter is fake-looking at quite a number of instances, but still, the gore is well done enough to do the trick. The “star” of the show, without a doubt, is the cinematography. The lighting is exquisite, and many scenes are choreographed in such a manner that colors and movements collude to present a gorgeous feast for the eyes.
It’s odd, I know, for a horror movie to do this, but Suspiria isn’t a horror movie in a traditional sense. It’s a sequence of arty scenes that just happen to be on the same film reel. The end result isn’t something scary or even entertaining, but I find myself nonetheless fascinated by the visual elements of the whole thing.
In the end, I’m torn. I personally won’t recommend this to anyone who is looking for a more conventional horror film, but I admit I have a good time looking at this movie. I also like how this movie deviates enough from the 1977 movie, to the point that I don’t feel like I’m watching some kind of carbon copy remake. If you want to watch this movie, just keep in mind that this isn’t horror as much as it is rear end gas from folks with artistic pretensions, and adjust your expectations accordingly.