An excellently performed, visually stunning art-house horror, Suspiria is another success for its acclaimed director, even if it goes a bit over-the-top towards the end of its lengthy run-time.
Suspiria is a supernatural horror film directed by Luca Guadagnino, known for last year’s romance, Call Me By Your Name. The film is a remake of the 1977, Italian, horror film of the same name by horror legend Dario Argento, a film considered a horror classic, meaning that from the outset this film had high expectations to meet. This version tells the same basic story, following an American woman, who joins a prestigious dance school secretly run by a coven of witches, including Tilda Swinton as Madame Blanc. However, this film adds various new elements to the story, focusing far more on the politics of the coven and setting the action in the political backdrop of 1977’s divided Berlin, as well as themes of female empowerment and sisterhood. As emphasised by Guadagnino himself, it is less a remake and more a homage, allowing it to stand on its own whilst still showing respect to its source material.
One of the film’s biggest strengths is its cast. Dakota Johnson is a fantastic lead, and between this and Bad Times At The El Royale, I’m glad to see that starring in the Fifty Shades trilogy hasn’t harmed her career. Tilda Swinton is, of course, great and for this film she deserves extra credit for playing three different roles, one of which is that of an 82 year old man (a role that is credited to a pseudonym in the credits, which I did not notice was her during the film) and her third role…which is something to behold and I won’t give anything away here. Of course, most of the characters are part of the dance troupe, and the dance sequences are performed beautifully, with one in particular, which leads to a nightmarish conclusion, being the highlight of the film for me.
In Suspiria, Guadagnino creates images that will stay with you long after leaving the theatre, albeit for vastly different reasons. Whereas in Call Me By Your Name it was the sheer gorgeousness of the landscapes that gripped you, here it is horrific shots of body-horror, eerie quick-cuts to violent or creepy imagery, and gritty shots of occupied Berlin in the winter, that all combine to have your spine-tingling throughout. It’s been a long time since I felt this on edge and filled with dread in the cinema. This is assisted by a haunting soundtrack by Thom Yorke, basing his work on Krautrock of the 1970s.
However, it is 152 minutes long, and I did not find this necessary. Whilst I did not mind the addition of some political elements, some scenes focused on this certainly could have been cut to accommodate the pacing. The most significant issue holding me back from giving this a perfect score, however, was the climax. Without giving too much away, I was disappointed that it resorted to little more than extreme violence that I’d expect to see in a Blade movie rather than an art-house picture such as this.
Though I feel it lost its way towards the end, I was still highly satisfied with Suspiria. It is an engaging and haunting art-house horror picture that creates a terrifying world that I absolutely intend to revisit one day — if I’m feeling brave enough.