A Remake That Gets Everything From the Original Right
DIRECTED BY LUCA GUADAGNINO/2018
The original Suspiria is either a pivotal horror classic that has influenced everyone you love. Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky, Edgar Wright, etc. All directors who are heavily influenced by the original. It’s like the band Mudhoney. You may not know who that is, but all of the bands whose shirts you wear, they worship Mudhoney.
Or it’s a niche Italian weirdo film that is the dumbest movie to remake, because most of the public has no idea what the hell it is.
Either way, the remake is officially here. Luca Guadagnino, the masterful director of one of the best movies last year, Call Me By Your Name, is taking on this remake, which is actually more of a reincarnation. The film is split into six acts and one epilogue. Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), is a dance prodigy that has traveled to Berlin in the year 1977. Like in the original, she lands in a dance school run by an instructor named Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). Madame Blanc is more humane in this version. She pities Susie more and whatever evil is in this school, she fears as much as she endorses.
Susie becomes obsessed with a missing student Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz). Like in the original, as a viewer, you understand her inquisitiveness, but fear for her as she goes deeper and deeper down the hole. The more she learns, the more her life is in danger. At the same time, Patricia’s psychiatrist, Joseph Klemperer (played by Tilda Swinton, also) goes on the same journey to find out the truth. Joseph is just as vulnerable as Susie and you fear for him just as much.
The dance school is run by evil witches who will stop at nothing to hide the truth from Susie and will exploit their hatred for men towards Joseph. They’re more open in their malice than they were in the original. You fear their intentions more and when you see the complete, bone-crunching dissemination of a student trying to escape, you know this movie is leading to a climax as brutal as the original.
Guadadnino’s version of Suspiria is bold, beautiful and ingenious.
He doesn’t make a carbon copy of the original but rather observed what the original did correctly and put it into his own vision with his own voice. The original Suspiria feels like a madman got a hold of a camera and started filming. This one feels more like a calculated artist, albeit one with malevolence on his mind, is orchestrating everything. The opening scene with Patricia and her psychiatrist consists of edits that are just a little too short and go to shots that are a little too off. It sets the tone for the rest of the film.
You can also look at the usage of Radiohead’s lead singer Thom Yorke’s score. It’s much different but as effective. Goblin, the Italian metal band who scored the original, went with terror in their chords. In this version, Luca uses Yorke for melodies and eventually irony when the blood starts to spill. There is a climatic scene of violence towards the end, and the use of Yorke’s song reminded me more of another Italian film, Cannibal Holocaust, that had music dripping of irony throughout.
And make no mistake, this is a Guadadgnino film completely. I’ve heard some say it’s unrecognizable from his other work and I couldn’t disagree more. The first half perhaps is a horror film that could be directed by a handful of talented filmmakers, but the last half is when fans of Luca, who may be completely unfamiliar with Suspiria, will connect. Much like Call Me By Your Name, there is a scene where a major character stops the film to give a speech that will bring you to tears.
Luca also gets at some deeper meanings, though they are a little hard to decipher and intentionally unclear. Anything from the broader statement of the way men treat women to a much more specific commentary on the horrors of Germany and the guilt that stuck around for years after.
Some may think this movie is completely pretentious nonsense. They may hate it, think it’s boring, think it means nothing. And they aren’t wrong. By design, this movie is made to be divisive, just like the first one. But to me, it all worked. And I thank God that movies like Suspiria are still allowed to be made.