Let’s check out a film about a totally normal dance academy. (Spoiler free)
Suspiria is a new remake of the classic Italian horror film by Dario Argento, and this is quite the departure from the original. Where Argento had a highly stylized and almost dream like quality, the new one is crushing with realism, paranoia and violence. I may as well be up front here: I am not the biggest Argento fan (though I do respect him), and I liked this version more than the original.
We follow young Susie (Dakota Johnson) who travels to Berlin from her small town in America to work with Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) at a famous German dance school. Once Susie arrives, it becomes clear that something is amiss, and those in charge of the school are actually witches. What follows is a hypnotic film that examines issues of rebirth, motherhood, and art.
We also have a parallel story of Dr. Josef Klemperer (who looks just so damn familiar…) who had treated one of the young women at the academy. He believes her to be delusional, but when she goes missing he launches an investigation. Both stories play to the backdrop of Cold War tensions in Berlin.
In short, we have a stuffed narrative. There is a lot going on, but I didn’t find it too hard to follow (something I might be in the minority with). The pieces are laid out, but not always in a linear order—things do fit though. The plot is relatively simple, witches using young women to gain power—but how it is told is where the difference is.
The film is absolutely gorgeous. The colors, sets, cinematography, and make-up teams all did fantastic work. There is something sinister about the school, and it is hard to describe why, but something immediately feels wrong. Coupled with excellent acting, this film is one that horror fans should not miss.
Now, as expected (for frequent readers anyway), is where I will complain about the film. Before I continue, I did love this movie, but certain things bothered me. The camera becomes too intrusive at certain points. Quick zooms or odd angles that call back to the original are fun, but for me they broke the spell. Later in the film we get additional filters that sometimes work, sometimes don’t. The film works best when we are just witnesses to the darkness and tragedy that surrounds these young women. Once it becomes too stylized it loses some of its magic.
The film is also long. While I do think it could be trimmed, it did not bother me as much here as in other films. The scenes always have a purpose, and this is a major plus for the movie. We have a slow burner, so come in prepared for that.
Not sure if this is a flaw, but the film is going to be absurdly divisive. I took a peak on IMDB and you have a bunch of 10 or 1 star reviews. I think this will be one people either love or hate, and I don’t see a ton of middle ground here. For fans of Mother or VVitch, I think this one is worth watching for sure. We also have some fantastic dance numbers, so, you know, culture and stuff.
This is a weird film to review because I want people to see it without any expectations. The film is wholly unique (an odd thing to say about a remake, but stay with me), even those who know the plot of the original don’t know the feel of this one. The less you know the better. Don’t expect Saw or The Conjuring (which are fine films in their own right—I hate the divide between arthouse and mainstream horror—both rule), and think of something that is more a fever-dream drama with a creep factor.
Overall, this one is absolutely worth seeing.