Plot: A darkness swirls at the centre of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Released: November 2018
In much the same way as when I watched The Dead Don’t Die, it took me a while to fully decide how I feel about the latest version of Suspiria, there were so many unanswered questions and mixed emotions leaving it hard for me to figure out if I liked it or not, which is something that might only come with time and re-viewings.
Suspiria makes no apologies for being an uncompromisingly dark and striking film, visually and with the plot, reminding me of the equally marmite Mother!, both of which found a way to drill into your subconscious and leave their mark on your psyche. This is accomplished with a wonderful mixture of haunting imagery and an atmosphere of growing dread that mirrors the cold-war Berlin where it’s set. This atmosphere is aided massively not only by the strong acting but also the creative soundtrack that Thom Yorke put together.
I enjoyed the creative cinematography that’s filled with bold composition choices, wonderfully gloomy use of light and reflective surfaces, which turns the academy into a character all of its own, reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining or Hill House in The Haunting. Although moving away from the brightly coloured feel of the original, this more grounded palette in my eyes makes the film feel more realistic and less like a dream.
As mentioned earlier, all the performances were strong enough, with Tilda Swinton once again excelling as both Madame Blanc and Dr Klemperer, exuding an underlying menace worthy of a head witch, Dakota Johnson does well to carry the scenes she is in and proves that the Fifty Shades of Grey were just a misstep and she can star in a film. But it was Mia Goth as Sara who I was particularly drawn too, after all, it’s her character who is tasked with carrying much of the film’s emotional weight and would most assuredly have not worked if a lesser actress was taked with the role.
Now onto the flaws. At 2 hours 40 mins, you can’t help but feel this is a little indulgent and in places tend to drag. There is also the character of Dr Joseph Klemperer who I mentioned was played by Tilda Swinton in layers of the prosthesis, which while Swinton gave a decent performance as the elderly doctor investigating the weird going’s on, you can’t help but find her voice offputting and during the daylight scenes, the make-up is nowhere near convincing enough to warrant the choice rather than hiring a male actor to play the part. Sadly it becomes more than a little offputting.
Suspiria is most assuredly a slow burn, which may just put off viewers hoping to see a straightforward horror narrative, but unlike films such as Hereditary or The Witch, Suspiria feels overly convoluted, sluggish and worst of all, not very scary, which may just be down to Guadagnino’s inexperience in the horror genre.
Despite its flaws, Suspiria is a welcome edition to witch lore and brings some new ideas magic and where it might be being practised, which while not altogether successful, to move away from the original, the cinematography, set design and performances are strong, even if the directing is not.