As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Dario Argento’s Suspiria casts a long shadow. The 1977 Italian horror classic has served as an inspiration for many directors. In an era where even Baywatch can be made into a movie, it was only a matter of time before Argento’s masterpiece was remade. Luca Guadagnino does directing duties and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke tries to add the musical flair Goblin did to the original.
Suspiria is the story of Susie Banion (Dakota Johnson), a young American dancer who is enrolled into the Markos Dance Academy after passing an audition. Little does Susie know the Academy has a dark secret that may end up changing her life.
Guadagnino direction in Suspiria is beautiful. The first thing audiences will notice is the emphasis placed on interiors. When Susie first enters the Academy, the camera pans out to show it’s beautiful floor and how impressively large the room is. Guadagnino does this to maximum effect numerous times during the film.
There are also cut scenes and transitions that work effectively. At times it is as if Guadagnino is not just paying homage to Argento, but to all films of the 1970s. For example, shots will focus on a character’s face before suddenly panning out. Other times, quick transitions and odd camera angles are used to disorient the audience. In particular, mirrored walls are used to make simple conversations look more stylish.
There is a downside to Guadagnino’s direction. Sometimes the quick cuts become overdone and can be more frustrating than effective. There are also moments Suspiria looks like a typical horror movie trailer. There are quick cuts of limbs, blood, and insects that seemingly do not make sense. It is a trick the works the first time, but wears thin later.
The lighting in Suspiria is also excellent. The movie is set in the winter and early parts of the film are grey and almost colorless. The intentionally drab look of the film really stands out when mirrors or flashing lights are used. his is a great juxtaposition of color and the lack thereof.
The movie’s eye-catching finale goes in the opposite direction and is bathed in a deep red. This is not only a callback to Argento’s original, but is the perfect look for the chaotic scene. The climax takes on an almost hallucinatory state and the blood red that washes over the entire screen only heightens the state.
Thom Yorke does an equally amazing job with the soundtrack. Where the sound truly excels in Suspiria is in moments of silence. Yorke’s haunting score will sometimes alternate with absolute silence in the same scene. Once again the audience is caught off guard and even more impacted by these moments. The music plays a big role in the film’s mind blowing conclusion. The song played is perfect for the pandemonium on screen.
The choreography in Suspiria is fantastic. Clearly, much dedication and training from the actors was put into the movie. What makes the dances so captivating is the swiftness and finality of the moves. Instead of the delicacy one may normally associate with ballet, the audience is left with dance moves that are both subtly sexual and extremely violent. The dances also manage to add a sense of dread to the film.
Johnson’s performance as Susie is a highlight of Suspiria. Over the course of the film, Susie changes and Johnson does a great job of conveying this. At first, Susie is innocent and almost childlike. Later in the film, she seems wise and stern. Johnson is believable during the entire transformation.
This change is also seen in Johnson’s appearance. Initially, she looks like a child among adults. Susie looks like she would be more accustomed to a high school than a prestigious dance academy. Over the course of the film Susie takes on a more sexualized and even predatory appearance. Susie’s change over the course of Suspiria is handled excellently.
Comparing Luca Guadagnino’s version of Suspiria with Dario Argento’s original would be unfair to both movies. These are two separate and distinct movies. This version of Suspiria is a methodical and grotesque horror film that stands on its own.