Suspiria 2018 Dakota JohnsonYear: 2018
Director(s): Luca Guadagnino
Writer(s): David Kajganich
Region of Origin: US, Italy
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: R
Color, 152 mins

Synopsis: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. (Source)

What is life but a delicate balance or transfer of energy and revolution from one person to another. We don’t see necessarily see this abstraction, but we can feel it all around us, through art, physicality, emotion and more. Going beyond what the eye can see, director Luca Guadagnino focuses on these intangible ideas with Suspiria. His latest pays homage to the spirit behind Dario Argento’s classic, expanding on what was only hinted at in the original. Bringing a colder, more unforgiving aesthetic to the film, Guadagnino contrasts feelings of elation and creation with pure despair and sorrow. It makes for an artful, masterful descent into madness that feels alive and unpredictable. Horror, at its most primal and unsettling is something that worms its way into our every fiber, and that’s exactly what Guadagnino has created here.

Amidst post-Nazi Berlin, an American named Susie (Dakota Johnson) arrives at the prestigious Markos Dance Academy. She’s felt driven here all her life, and despite no formal training, quickly wins over the company’s creative director, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). As she commits to a lead role in the academy’s flagship show, Susie’s preternatural abilities awakens ancient evils hiding in plain sight. Elsewhere, a grieving psychologist named Jozef Klemperer grapples with the implications of a missing patient, one who warned of dangers within the Markos ranks.

Suspiria 2018 review trailerIn fitting form, Guadagnino’s approach isn’t to ape the psychedelic visuals and intricate kills of Argento’s original film. Here, the narrative’s dreamlike dread and period setting full of elusive dangers are their own kind of thrill. What Guadagnino has created is very much a volatile microcosm that could collapse and fold in on itself at any moment. The story collides and expands through a complex tapestry of terrorist attacks and outer threats, which mirror the internal discord of the Markos troupe and its dancers. Amidst all of this, Susie’s thirst for perfection, Blanc’s feelings for her new protege and Klemperer’s overbearing grief allow the film to inhale and exhale with a powerful metaphysical cohesion.

But while the film is more cerebral than its peers, it still has defining moments of gruesome excess. As such, the film’s supernatural mythology is deeper and more defined than in Argento’s. Its sinister antagonists are unflinchingly brutal. Their fight for control unfolds in grotesque displays of body horror and culminates in an all-out display of orgiastic carnage. Though the film eschews the cheap scares that pervade the genre, Guadagnino’s more patient approach allows for something that penetrates deeper and resonates longer.

Suspiria 2018 review Tilda SwintonThe performances are inextricable from Guadagnino’s deft structural and thematic slight of hand. Dakota Johnson’s Susie acts somewhat as the film’s connective tissue, bringing together disparate storylines and characters in a way that makes emotional sense. Johnson evokes a passionate ferocity that adds to the film’s mysteries. Still, this may be Tilda Swinton’s show. Swinton showcases as at least three characters, bending gender and the story’s myriad of ideas into a melting pot of indescribable complexity. Continuing a prosperous creative relationship with Guadagnino, this stands as one of her best performances. At any given moment, the film’s ideas leap off the screen thanks to Swinton’s calculated and immersive presence. Chloe Moretz and Mia Goth round things out as fellow dancers, while the film has a very inspired cameo from Argento’s original Suzy, Jessica Harper.

Steeped in symbolism, Guadagnino’s film demands multiple viewings and is rich with texture and thematic vibrancy. This is arthouse horror that’s confident and harrowing, even with flourishes of playful irreverence. The Fly, The Thing, and now Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria. Above all, the film is proof that remakes can be good when they understand what they’re tackling, and proudly stand on their own. With its elaborate dance sequences, hypnotic visuals and display of empowering female strength, this ain’t the Suspiria we grew up with. It’s more intricately constructed and orchestrated, and with a message of how nothing is more potent or dangerous than the emotions we carry deep within.