Thursday, November 8, 2018

Suspiria (2018)

Suspiria (2018)

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 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Director: Bryan Singer 

Cast: Rami Malek, Lycy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Mike Myers

I have to admit I’d never heard of Bohemian Rhapsody or Queen until Wayne’s World (1992) came along and introduced me to it, I was a teenager back then, but thanks to Wayne and Garth I fell in love with that song. It wasn’t long before I decided to go past the Wayne’s World soundtrack and explored the rest of the bands body of work and it just so happened that I found one of my favorite bands ever. By the way, this is no side note thing, the fact that Wayne’s World introduced me to Queen, because it was Mike Myers film that made that song shoot to its chart topping position for the first time. Which is why it’s so fitting (and funny) to see Mike Myers playing the role of a music producer who doesn’t want to use the song as the albums first single. But anyways, here we are talking about Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), director Bryan Singer’s biopic on the legendary band. The film has had a rocky history from inception. 

 At one point Sacha Baron Cohen was going to play Freddie Mercury, but he backed out for creative differences. Among them the fact that Baron Cohen wanted to make a more adult oriented film and Queen’s surviving members wanted a more ‘PG-13’ version of the bands story. I have to admit, it would have been interesting to see a more adult oriented version of the film starring Sacha Baron Cohen, but more on that later. So anyhow, Singer ended up directing most of the film (which is why he gets full credit for it) and Dexter Fletcher who was going to direct at one point, ended up finishing the film when Singer got fired for Chronic Absenteeism and misconduct. Interesting thing, even though Singer got fired before the film was finished, he got full credit for the film because he’d filmed almost the whole thing when he got fired. So it’s still very much a Bryan Singer film. So anyhows, Baron left and Rami Malek took the role. What was the resulting product? Did all this back and forth in production end up producing a film worthy of Freddie Mercury’s awesomeness? 

 Of course, whoever took the role of Freddie Mercury would have big shoes to fill because Mercury wasn’t just any old singer, he was the ultimate performer, a tour de force on stage that when coupled with the rest of the band was just one of the most bombastic and soulful rock and roll bands you could ever wish for. Till this day Freddie Mercury is one of those voices that truly gets to my soul. It’s not just his voice, but what he sings about, it’s like they say in the movie, Queen was a band for the misfits, by misfits. They belong to us and we to them. Queen fans, and they are many, sing and know the bands songs with a passion, it’s one of those things that either you get or you don’t. So this review comes from a true fan of Queen, a guy who really loves Queen! So, did this film satisfy this fan?

 Hell to the yes it did! It rocked me! First off, I have to commend Singer. The film looks beautiful and it has some amazing shots. There’s this moment where the camera comes from the heavens, down into the Live Aid concert and right onto the stage that was just beautiful. For some people it’s too beautiful, but I don’t know I freaking love the look of the film. The vibrant colors go with the bands flamboyance in my opinion. And speaking of this “it’s too clean” bull crap. Listen, what did you want? To see Mercury snorting cocaine and having sex with all his gay lovers? Well, all that is hinted at in the film in various ways, we see a table filled with alcohol and cocaine, we see Mercury making out with some guys. But the film isn’t so graphic with it. It’s not essential. The film works fine the way it is. Sure you could go really dark and nitty gritty, but it’s not like you have to. That being said, the film doesn’t shy away from showing us Mercury’s drug/sex infused life, it’s all there, it just not as graphic as some might want. Me? I thought the film had just the right amount of grittiness without going overboard. I thought the film hit the right balance. Would I have liked an ‘R’ rated version of this tale? Sure, it would have been interesting, but this version is the one we got and I must say I’m happy with it. Why? 

 I’m happy with it because it captured Freddie Mercury’s essence, it captured his personality and his journey. And make no exceptions people, this is Mercury’s story. Sure the band is there and they are a part of it. But it’s not like we’re going to dive into John Deacon’s life. Sure Mary Austin was the love of his life, but it aint her story either, Mercury is at center stage here same as he was in real life. Make no mistake this is Freddy Mercury’s story my friends. And for those of us who know it, it’s all there. Sure the chronology of it all has been tweeked, but what Biopic doesn’t do that for dramatic purposes? No biopic tells it exactly like it was. 

 I have to commend Rami Malek, his portrayal is amazing. He IS Mercury and I was blown away, even the rest of the band members look almost identical to their real life counterparts. And for those of you who are making fun of Malek’s teeth in the film, you should know that Mercury’s teeth where like that, they are not “cartoonish” as I have heard some describe them, Freddie did in fact have those huge front teeth and he chose to keep them to stand up to those who made fun of him and he became the biggest voice in Rock and Roll with them. Bottom line though, Malek sold me on his portrayal and he got to me. There’s this moment where he is actually writing Bohemian Rhapsody where he’s getting all teared up as he writes, that says so much without saying a word. 

 And about the film tearing you up, well it will. If you know about Mercury’s life story you will be heart broken. But at the same time, you will feel the awesomeness that was Mercury and the band. They would get into people’s hearts and that’s why when Queen got up on stage during the Live Aid concert in 1985, that’s why those thousands sang back with a passion! By the way, that scene in the film is a real show stopper. You’ll get goose bumps. I teared up more than once during the movie (like I said I’m a fan) but that last concert scene, wow. Interestingly enough, the Live Aid concert was the first thing they shot of the film and It’s amazing. It captures the awesomeness of that day and let me tell you, they didn’t pull back, it’s an accurate representation of that day. You feel the thousands, you feel the magnitude of the event. And you do feel Mercury giving the performance of a life time. So screw the naysayers, I think some of the negative feedback comes from people who either hate what he represented (total freedom) or simply don’t know how to have a good time at the movies anymore. Me? I sang every song and clapped at the appropriate time during “Radio Ga-Ga” You my friends, should do the same. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 


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