What happened to good old fashioned subtlety? And what happened to the maggots dropping from the ceiling of the boarding school?
SUSPIRIA 2018 is the curious remake of the 1977 Gallo horror classic by Dario Argento about a young girl entering a new ballet school, discovering it to be run by a coven of witches. The director here is Luca Gaurdagnino who helmed the overrated CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, whose talent (or lack of) is more evidently displayed here.
Jessica Harper who starred as the innocent girl in the original has a cameo in this updated version as the doctor’s wife who went missing during the war. Dakota Johnson plays the lead role here with Tilda Swinton playing Madame Blanc and an elderly male doctor using heavy prosthetics.
SUSPIRIA opens with words implying a long film (2 and a half hours) with 6 Acts and an epilogue. The film is and feels lengthy. It looks great, courtesy of cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom with haunting music by Thom Yorke who won an Award for it at the Venice International Film Festival.
SUSPIRIA is all looks but it is unfair to say all looks and no substance. There is more plot than the original though the script is based on Argento’s screenplay. The story is still set in a German dance school. But the problem is that Guadagnino’ s storytelling technique appears not to be in use. It was ok for his last film CALL ME BY YOUR NAME that worked on a weaker narrative, the beauty of the Italian countryside and first love. In SUSPIRIA many scenes appear unconnected and after reading the story from the press notes, a lot of what transpires is not communicated to the audience. The plot is made more complicated by its setting in 1977 with the politics of the Berlin Wall.
SUSPIRIA is a complete mess. Take this scene near the end as a classic example. The old doctor, Dr. Klemperer (played by Swinton herself) and his lost wife (now re-untied and played by Jessica Harper) are out walking out in the snow before she disappears for no reason. The doctor is then dragged into a building by two elderly women, screaming at the top of their lungs. The doctor is supposed to be lured to the building by a witch disguising herself as the wife. A huge witch ritual begins with no shortage of nudity (the sort with lots old old withering bodies, sagging breasts and drooping buttocks) but the type one does not want to witness. Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) is killed in this ritual or isn’t she? – All too confusing.
Director Guadagnino has put too much effort and has obviously become too serious with the project. The original SUSPIRIA was a slasher film, scary but fantastic cheesy entertainment that is on every horror fan’s list as a must-see. Gaudagnino has definitely taken all the fun out of the horror classic. This one is elaborate, creepy and disgusting for no reason it was meant to be this disgusting. SUSPIRIA has so far got mixed reviews from critics, as most probably are unsure what to make out of this mess of a horror movie. Argento’s SUSPIRIA was funny, clever and short.