Italian director Luca Guadagnino is just coming off the heels of last year’s hit Call Me By Your Name. His new film, Suspiria, is a far cry from a dreamy, Italian romance — it is a nightmare, ready to swallow viewers whole.
Suspiria is the story of Ohio Mennonite dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson). In 1977 Berlin, Bannion makes her way to the prestigious Markos School of Dance, replacing the missing Patricia Hingle (Chloe Grace Moretz). As the school mourns the disappearance of Hingle, Bannion is trained by Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) to become one of the best dancers the academy has seen.
However, Bannion’s roommate, Sara Simms (Mia Goth), has growing suspicions about the disappearance of Hingle. Simms finds a recurring supernatural element among the academy faculty in her self-appointed investigations. As Bannion’s rank in the in the academy rises, tensions among the girls and supernatural forces grow.
Suspiria is a remake of the beloved, low-budget, 1977 cult classic of the same name, which was Italian director Dario Argento’s first installment in his witchy The Three Mothers trilogy.
But remake is a misleading word. The new Suspiria is more of a rebirth. Everything from the original is expanded upon. The protagonist, Bannion, is given a background for the first time. Guadagnino’s version also features much more dance and choreography than Argento’s. The witchcraft — or the act of witchcraft, rather — is visited in depth, doing a a service to the world-building that Argento previously attempted.
Where the remake fails is when it tries to become something more than horror. The appeal of Argento’s original, as well what is considered great horror in general, is the simplicity. Though 2018’s Suspiria builds both Susie and Dr. Kemplerer (also Swinton)’s backgrounds, sometimes the storytelling does not make the impact intended.
The film also does not cater to first-time viewers. Stylistically, its superzooms and choppy editing are referential to Argento’s low budget original. Both first-time viewers and lovers of the original 1977 might find that off-putting. Those style choices in the original were typical of the time but with modern technology, these flaws are possible to rub out.
Suspiria succeeds when it takes advantage of what it means to be a film in the 21st century. The makeup for the film is excellent, and some may miss that Swinton portrays three different characters: Blanc, Klemperer and Mother Helena Markos.
The film also excels at body horror where the original could not. The 1977 film is infamous for its cruelty and buckets of blood, but the remake takes that even further. Violence in this film is heartless and rampant. Other than the extreme gore, a notable scene features lots of contortion and is not for the squeamish.
2018’s Suspiria is so much more alive than the 1977 original. But those familiar with the ending of Argento’s version will realize the two are in no way the same. Though it has flaws, lovers of Argento’s original should enjoy the remake, and first-time viewers should be shocked. Suspiria proves that the future of horror is bright.