Button-Pusher 'Suspiria' Will Test Your Horror Limits
You should probably skip the popcorn during this one.
People will most certainly either love or hate director Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake. There's little room for anything in-between. It's a wonderfully bizarre, gory film that's also overlong and devoid of any real logic — if that matters to you. Luckily for me, it doesn't. Suspiria is an experience and the vision of a filmmaker who sees film as a canvas to experiment on. If Dario Argento's 1977 original is a giallo classic, Guadagnino’s Suspiria is its freakish little sister, a sight to behold and never truly understood.
Opening with a title card that reveals the film's structure and setting ("Six acts and an epilogue set in divided Berlin."), Suspiria begins with the arrival of a downy innocent American named Susie (Dakota Johnson) at the renowned Helena Markos Dance Company. The capital is exploding. It's the German Autumn of 1977 and The Baader-Meinhof Gang is lighting up the streets with molotov cocktails.
Meanwhile, former student Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) is frantic, screaming about someone trying to "get inside of her." Her psychotherapist, Dr. Jozef Klemperer (Lutz Ebersdorf, who bears a not-so-coincidental resemblance to Tilda Swinton) has no answers and becomes the last person to see Patricia alive. The film is immediately disorienting and haunting, and the feeling persists, helped along by music by Goblin and Thom Yorke.
Suspiria also begins much differently than Argento's original and it's not the last time David Kajganich's script veers off-course (Guadagnino has described the film as more of an homage than a remake). After these introductory scenes and a seductive title sequence, the movie settles inside the famed Dance Company where Susie wins the attention of the great Madame Blanc (Swinton) in no time. The teacher and the rest of the female faculty (which includes original Suzy, Jessica Harper, and German star Ingrid Caven) see great things for the new American student. However, tension boils under the surface.
You see, the future of Helena Markos is at stake, and more, so is the coven of the witches who control the school. Right away, we get a glimpse of the witches' power. After a student named Olga (Elena Fokina) storms out of rehearsal she becomes trapped in a doorless room of mirrors. Susie dances in her place and Olga becomes a virtual marionette, her body twisting and contorting along with Susie's convulsive motions in the other room. Olga is mangled and dragged away with hooks while Susie remains unaware.
The violence is brutal. It makes the beginning of It Follows look like a carnival ride. And the rest of the film doesn't disappoint. If there's one thing Suspiria has going for it, it's an abject desire to shock and disturb around every corner. Guadagnino fans who loved Call Me By Your Name last year might expect some romance in this adaptation, but they'll leave disappointed. Nothing Guadagnino has done before will prepare you for Suspiria.
While Suspiria settles nicely within the horror/body horror genre (as well as fantasy), it's not exactly a scary movie. It's an unsettling one — a button-pusher that'll test your limits of artistic violence and what that means. Non-horror fans will be revolted. Be warned. But for those of us with steel-lined stomachs and a taste for the extreme, the movie will satisfy. As the movie builds towards its gory finish, the secrets of the coven are unraveled and its history revealed. It's ambitious stuff, and a hell of a cinematic experience.