Sunday, November 11, 2018

Movie Review: "Suspiria" (2018)

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes

An American is invited to train at a dance school in Germany. This school is actually a secret coven of witches, and their plans for this woman involve a lot more than dancing.

Suspiria 2018 movie still Dakota Johnson Tilda Swinton
"Today, we need to break the nose of every beautiful thing." (Image Source)
Don't go into this new version of "Suspiria" expecting a rehash of Dario Argento's original because you aren't going to get it. This incarnation of the material is directed by Luca Guadagnino, who has helmed other film like "This is Love," "A Bigger Splash," and "Call Me by Your Name." It is written by David Kajganich and is a re-imagining of the 1977 film of the same name. The film focuses on Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), a dancer from Ohio who has been invited to train at a prestigious modern dance school in Germany. This school, however, is actually a secret coven of witches that has more planned for Susie than just teaching her to dance. The coven is also in the midst of an internal power struggle between Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) and Helena Markos, who both hope for control of the school. Meanwhile, a psychologist named Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton as Lutz Ebersdorf) investigates the claims of witchcraft at the school made by his patient Patricia (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz), who was a former student there.
Suspiria 2018 movie still Dakota Johnson Mia Goth Luca Guadagnino
"There's more in that building than what we can see." (Image Source)
Luca Guadagnino and David Kajganich have taken an existing property and created something that is entirely their own in "Suspiria." Whereas the original thrived in its moody atmosphere and striking visuals, this version boasts a more complex story with deeply layered characters that somehow feels old school and fresh and new at the same time. Though Dakota Johnson's Susie is technically the protagonist of the film, and she gives a splendid performance, much of the story focuses on the coven of witches, particularly Tilda Swinton's Madame Blanc. We get to fully experience the extent of the coven's power and what they are actually capable of. The power struggle between Markos and Blanc has allowed Guadagnino to create so much horrifying, beautiful, haunting imagery here that the movie has stuck with us since we watched it. Like, seriously, give the guy a horror movie franchise IMMEDIATELY. One of the very first deaths we see is disgustingly terrifying, but it is masterful and artistic with the way it is integrated into the rest of the scene. The climax is amazing as well. "Suspiria" ends with a showcase of blood and gore that is something to behold. It is one of the most memorable scenes of 2018 and will likely leave you agog as you watch it unfold. Though the beginning and end open and close with a bang, the film's length is a bit of a problem. This is our biggest critique about it. There's a lot going on here. We don't have a problem with long movies, but this incarnation is so determined to make it its own entity that it adds some superfluous scenes that could have easily been cut out without damaging the integrity or flow of the story. The narrative gets a little messy at times, and it could have been improved with a bit more editing. It also contains some pristine, transformative Oscar-worthy prosthetic makeup work by Mark Coulier. It helps to have one of the greatest working actors, Tilda Swinton, giving said makeup work an incredible, memorable performance to go along with it. Swinton plays more than one character, and you wouldn't know it just by looking, that's how good the makeup work is. We would be thrilled to see these effects be recognized come awards season.
Suspiria 2018 movie still Dakota Johnson Mia Goth
"Welcome to our little family." (Image Source)
"Suspiria" is a mind-fuck. You won't entirely know what to make of it until you ruminate on your thoughts and process your feelings about it. Even if we weren't sure what was going on, we know we enjoyed this film and think Luca Guadagnino's ambition and eye for the beautifully horrifying will serve him well going forward in his career. We think you should give this a chance if you've liked movies like "mother!" in the past, though this project will certainly not appeal to everyone. It'll take more than one viewing to fully grasp the director's entire vision, but we sure know we admire what we saw.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.3/10
RT Rating: ~61%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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