Film Reviews

Suspiria (2018)

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Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Goth

Director: Luca Guadagnino

In a divided Berlin in 1977, women at a famous dance studio prepare for a key performance. But something is not right at the studio. Patricia (Moretz) has mysteriously disappeared after making strange comments that there is some very dark goings on at the school. Is innocent newcomer Susie (Johnson) in danger? Is Sara (Goth) one of them or is she just starting to find out the awful truth?

This remake of Dario Argento’s famous Giallo horror classic about a ballet school run by witches is an odd duck.

On the one hand, it has some wonderfully intense and physical performances from it’s leads. Tilda Swinton does weird, cultlike leader so naturally, Dakota Johnson feels like a natural innocent on the verge of breaking free, Chloe Grace Moretz is able to express cracked strength in her scenes, while Mia Goth, who it is seems is obligatory to have in any new horror film, feels a lot warmer and more accessible than usual. Every actor in this film gives an excellent and very natural performance, but manages to ratchet that up to maximum intensity when requested.

It’s also a film that has dark, dreamlike qualities, a deep sense of unease, and focuses on on faces and landscapes to create mood and form. It feels like a very European film, in the way that it’s shot, and delightfully includes a lot of the whip pans, zooms, and coloured lights that are Argento’s artistic signatures. In fact, the year 1977, when the film is set, is the year that the original Suspiria is released.

And yet, on the other hand, Argento’s Suspiria was original, both in it’s story and cinematic styling. It was part of Italian Giallo cinema, and even today feels fresh somehow. This film does not feel original. Where Argento was emphatic and stylised, this film is over the top and hysterical. There is so much heavy breathing in this film, so much grotesque and gory rather than real fear. It feels like it’s all meant to mean so much, and be artistic, but is it really saying anything?

I found this film quite mesmerising to watch, and liked the way it was shot and the costumes. The performances were good, and the movement and dance was powerful, but it was also full of cackling and screaming and full on imagery and general over the top everything which felt like they were designed to distract from the plot holes. Avoiding spoilers, when you come to the end with Susie, if you look back over the plot, her character and behaviour makes no sense. It’s not a mess, it’s not exactly a bad film, but it also doesn’t feel to me like a great one either. I had to wonder why you’d make a Suspiria remake that so similar to the original in the first place. There’s no spark of originality here, no new direction that makes making this film seem like a great idea.

See It If: talented direction, talented leads, but nothing new. This film is an art house style horror, and might only please those who like that niche. The original Suspiria is more pleasing all round.

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