For a person that had never seen Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic (or so I’m told) Suspiria, a viewing of the remake at the London Film Festival seemed like a good idea. I decided not to watch the original beforehand. I didn’t want to compare it. I wanted to see it with fresh eyes.
Right from the start I just want to say this is a film that will divide opinion. Its one of those you are going to love or hate!
Director Luca Guadagnino is a man with vision, that is very clear. He is also a man who has his own ideas. Suspira is achievement of sorts. It has a slow build up and then goes hell for leather in its final act. It’s able to be shocking and tedious all at the same time. Gone are the flashing red lights that everyone was expecting from the original. Suspiria 2018 uses colours from the darker end of the spectrum. There are some splashes of colour, Dakota Johnson’s red hair sticks out making her the stand out from the crowd and the rest of the dance troupe.
Johnson takes on the role of Susan Bannion a talented dancer who is auditioning in Berlin (a city she is drawn to) at a famous dance company. The company is led by Tilda Swinton’s Madame Blanc. She impresses at her audition and is invited to join. She is even given a room rent free above the rehearsal studio because Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) another dancer has disappeared (they are told she has quit). Patricia has been visiting a psychoanalyst in the name of Dr Klemperer. He has concerns that the dance school is hiding something.
I can’t work out what to make of Johnson’s performance. It borders on the edge of greatness, but every time she does some heavy breathing (and there is a lot of that) I’m taken back to her awful performances from the 50-shade trilogy. I try to remember that this is the same actress from Guadagnino’s ‘A Bigger Splash’. Her use of her body through dance is great. It is clear she is a very talented dancer. Tilda Swinton is as strong as you could imagine, brimming with confidence in every role she inhabits. The support cast are also good. Mia Goth performance is her strongest and Chloe Grace Moretz gives the film a strong opening which the whole film is built on.
The film does have a growing sense that everything is just not right. Over the two hours and 30 minutes (an hour longer than the original), everything is made to unsettle and unnerve you. From the sound effects to the music, it a makes an uneasy feeling. It also seems to never stop raining!
This isn’t a convention horror, there are no jump scares. It depends heavily on the mood and the atmosphere through the use of sound effects, cinematography and the music (Thom Yorke’s first film score). A dance routine paired with a horrible attack on one of the students is Suspiria at its best. It is bone-crunching and eerily beautiful at the same time, an odd mixture for any film to get right. The hardcore third act does rack up the stakes and the gore. Maybe, in this case, less would have been more. It all gets a bit OTT.
Honestly, I was expecting something a little bit out there and trippy. The overly long runtime really does weigh down the film. Technically Suspiria is a spectacle but overall it just lacks that degree of awe from a story that had so much promise. Will it stand the test of time like the original,? Only time will tell. All I know is that I’m still not sure if I liked it. It stays with you, constantly at the back of your mind. That can’t be a bad thing, can it?
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Doris Hick, Chloë Grace Moretz