Director: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Sylvie Testud, Jessica Harper, Chloë Grace Moretz
Run Time: 152 mins
After heightening his career with the Academy Award nominated Call Me By Your Name, it seems a strange choice for director Luca Guadagnino to follow it up with a remake of an Italian giallo horror film. However, Guadagnino has proven multiple times that he doesn’t stick to convention and here he chooses to reinvent Dario Argento’s cult classic as a more radical and feminised affair. This remake relocates the narrative to an Autumnal 1977 Berlin and the political violent uprising of the Baader-Meinhof faction. Dakota Johnson plays the film’s protagonist who gains a place at the Markos dance academy, where strange things happen almost instantaneously, as it is revealed early on that the academy is ruled by a coven of witches.
Suspiria is an ambitious remake that manages to justify its existence by diverting heavily from the original. It features some memorable horror imagery, beautifully lensed by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and revels in its grandeur that it takes its time in setting up, over the course of six chapters and an epilogue. The feminist-charged performances in this film are great, with the standout undoubtedly Tilda Swinton, who has three roles in the film and excels in all of them. Dakota Johnson is equally excellent in a role that has more development than one initially expects.
That said, Suspiria faulters in these ambitious in that it often feels very heavy, almost like a PhD thesis and this self-seriousness is undone by some of the more silly aspects of the Argento-influenced horror, which the film erratically veers between. Argento’s film is laughable in places and this is translated over to this remake as well. Crucially, for a film that is meant to be a horror film, it isn’t scary and because of the laughable nature of the subject material, it’s merely mildly unsettling in parts. The pacing is also langorous and there are stretches where the film lacks energy. Suspiria also represents Radiohead lead Thom Yorke’s first foray into film scoring. His score is excellent on its own, a mix of instrumental orchestral pieces and songs but it doesn’t always fit in with the film.
In summary, Suspiria is a mixed bag that succeeds more than it faulters. It’s a film that has the potential to improve on future rewatches. Regardless, I’m glad it exists and Guadagnino makes a strong case in what it means to remake a film. I think this is probably a better film than the original, which I have more problems with than this. Whilst an interesting experiment and Guadagnino has some great ideas, Suspiria isn’t quite the knockout it looked and deserved to have been.