Dir: Luca Guadagnino, 2018
Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo Suspiria, is frequently cited as his best work and one of the top horror movies ever made. The simple story of an American student who travels to a highly prestigious dance school to learn, is one of mystery and macabre with vibrant colours that border on garish plenty of blood splashing.
So, how do you celebrate the movie’s success? By remaking it and improving on it, as is the Hollywood way. Does it achieve what it set out to do? Not really.
In what can only be described as a major disappointment of 2018, Luca Guadagnino’s new vision has ripped everything out of Argento’s original and replaced it with mundane and trivialities that doesn’t go anywhere.
This remake leaves one scratching one’s head as to the point of it all. Much like Gus Van Sant’s rehash of Psycho, Guadagnino’s film doesn’t add anything or even draw you in. Padded out with nigh on an extra forty minutes, Suspiria nows runs to two and a half hours and serves only to make an already rather dull movie even more intolerable. Instead of making the film more comprehensive, boredom sets in, allowing your mind to wander so everything becomes incoherent. The chances are, you may still find yourself confused with the nonsensical goings on as nothing is truly explained.
But, that’s not to say that everything is bad. When they arrive, the horror pieces are effective at inducing winces and cringes, just like a horror film should. Unfortunately, they are few and far between.
The style of the film is brilliant and looks amazing, echoing Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession with its shots of the Berlin Wall and its overpowering dominance. Looking very real and natural, the sets are oppressive like the real thing. All grey and concrete, Guadagnino is able to make us feel oppressed with the drabness of the outside world.
Chloe Grace-Moretz appears for the whole of ten minutes which doesn’t do her talent any justice. A sorely wasted opportunity, Grace-Moretz should have been given a much more substantial role. She is certainly more impressive than the main star, Johnson. Looking all doe eyed, Johnson is still Anastasia Steele; all innocent and naive. Alas, it’s a style that she is unable to pull off.
A strange casting decision is Tilda Swinton in a dual, yet unconnected role. Latexed up to look like an octogenarian, Swinton portrays an holocaust survivor looking for his lost love. But the make up isn’t very good and clearly Swinton but using an alias in the credits. As the dance teacher, the British star is much more successful.
The original movie’s star, Jessica Harper, makes a cameo which is a highlight. It’s a shame she never truly reached the heights of what she is capable of.
To end it all, Suspiria isn’t a dreadful film. Far from it. There is much to enjoy. But director Luca Guadagnino should have stuck to Argento’s formula, rather than trying to be clever and letting his ego take control.