Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloe Gretz Moretz, Jessica Harper
I remember back when there were such a thing as video clubs, I saw the VHS box art for Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). I thought the art was very weird and artsy for a horror film, but what always caught my attention was the films catchphrase on the box which read “the only thing more terrifying then the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92”. I always wondered if it was actually that scary. Of course, years later when I started to explore Italian horror films, I discovered that Argento’s Suspiria was one of horror cinemas best supernatural thrillers. A beautifully shot piece of atmospheric, supernatural filmmaking. And indeed, it was a spooky tale about witchcraft with an intense ending. But nothing could prepare me for Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Argento’s film! I mean, remakes by norm already carry a certain amount of hatred towards them, even before they are released, people come into theaters already hating the film. Me, I’m one of those that gives remakes a chance, because there’s that off chance that it might be one of the good ones. And who knows, maybe it might even be better than the original. The buzz around this one was so good, almost too good. So, how was this remake of Suspiria? Did it live up the hype?
Jessica Harper in a scene from the original Suspiria (1977)
For those who haven’t seen the original Suspiria, this is a tale of witchcraft and dancing. You see, the story is all about this young American dance student who ends up following her dreams of going to a dance school in Berlin. When she gets there, she gets more then she bargained for when she realizes she’s not just in any dance school!
The thing about Argento’s Suspiria is that it isn’t just a horror film, to me it’s an exercise in gloomy atmosphere and a work of art. The color palette alone, filled with Argento’s trademark primary colors, is a beauty to behold. On top of that, it’s surreal, it’s hard to define. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you are seeing, but you know that you feel something and that something is freaking you out. My worry was, how was this remake going to top that? Was it going to duplicate Argento’s film or take a road all its own? Well, I’m happy to inform that it took a road all its own and I have to commend director Luca Guadagnino on this because he really did a great job of doing something different, yet familiar.
Luca Guadagnino and Tilda Swinton
Yes we get the same basic premise, the giant, brooding dance school in the middle of the the never ending rain. Yes it’s run by witches…but there’s a bit more depth to it, there’s a bit of the socio-political background to the story. There’s a revolution going on in Berlin in the background and some of the dancers are involved. The color palette is entirely different, instead of being drowned in Argento’s vibrant primary colors, the film seems devoid of color and life, so that when there is color it pops out! It adds to the dreary vibe the film carries throughout its entire running time. I loved that sustained note of dreariness. The overall tone is way more horrifying and serious. Where the first film felt sort of like a fairy tale amongst immature dance students behaving like little girls, here we get this deadly serious dance school where you are lucky to get admitted into. While Argento’s feels like a colorful, feverish dream, this one feels dreadful, sad and deadly serious. So in terms of tone, we get a very different film.
Yet it retains a lot of what works from Argento’s version. For example, the surrealism. Though for me it felt way more intense on this new version. The dreams and nightmares are way more horrifying. The death’s that occur in the film are more intertwined with the themes of the film: the dance and the witchcraft. Somehow Guadagnino managed to mix witchcraft with dancing and it works amazingly well, especially in one magnificently graphic death scene. And speaking of the graphic nature of this film, well, it’s really out there. I mean, the film is slow paced, a slow burner for sure so be ready for that. But when it decides to turn up the fire, get ready because it turns up the fire to hellish temperatures! And by hellish I mean the fiery pits of hell itself! The gore on this movie is really magnificent, spectacular.
And just like its 1977 counterpart, this new Suspiria holds no stops in banging out an amazing ending! Seriously speaking my friends, this films ending will blow you away. I’m not going to go into any details so that you can experience all the horror for yourselves. And yes, I said horror, not jump scares/teeny bopper horror, but true horror. The kind that makes full grown adults cringe in disgust and terror, the kind that's bizarre, just plain bizarre. The kind of bizarre that oozes off of the screen with intense and pure evil! I swear I could feel the evil pouring out of the screen. It almost feels wrong to watch! But you won’t be able to stop watching. Because in a weird twisted way, it is also beautiful, as the film also addresses. There is something meta about the dialog in the film, I felt it was also talking about art, filmmaking and the nature of horror. If anybody else felt that, please comment on it below. There’s beauty in all this horror! So there you go my friends. My review for Suspiria. The film that Quentin Tarantino saw and personally congratulated the director after watching. I mean, there’s a lot of naked feet on this movie so I get that. Plus it’s divided into chapters just like a Tarantino film. But aside from all the Tarantino love this movie got, this movie is a good example of what a great, epic horror film should be like. It should leave us scared and disturbed long after we leave the movie theater.
Rating: 5 out of 5