Suspiria, from director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) is a remake of Dario Argento’s eye-popping 1977 horror of the same name. Following roughly the same premise as the original, Guadagnino’s passion project follows a young American girl named Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), who has moved to Berlin to join the world renowned Helena Markos Dance Company. Shortly after settling in, it becomes clear that there is something sinister and supernatural going on in the bowels of the academy. Set during the 1970’s, Suspiria situates the film in a turbulent political era for the city, firmly grounding this unearthly narrative in the real world, and giving it a sense of poignancy the original iteration doesn’t possess.
Suspiria is an undoubtedly nightmarish and gruesome film, yet encompasses an entrancing quality that you just cannot look away from. Argento’s vivid, kaleidoscopic set design is exchanged for a drab, concrete backdrop, but don’t be fooled by this choice, as the grey serves as a blank canvas for Guadagnino to smear his beautiful, monstrous vision onto.
The films exceptional sound design elevates the sensory experience, giving already horrifying scenes an extra punch. Thom Yorke’s soundtrack provides a haunting ambiance for the tamer scenes, maintaining the otherworldly aura around the film. The music is harrowing yet heavenly, perfectly accompanying profound moments of the story, whilst providing a contrast to the more horrific scenes.
Tilda Swinton is an ethereal presence as dance teacher Madame Blanc, the students are enchanted by her, begging for her affections. Both stern, yet sympathetic at the same time, she demands unspoken respect from the dancers, much like a daughter would grant a mother. Dakota Johnson’s performance as Susie is equally striking, her character growing stronger throughout the film until she too commands the room as Madame Blanc does. Johnson’s dance skills are also impressive, losing herself in the sequences as she performs fervently and explosively, as if possessed by the devil himself.
Seductively horrific, Suspiria is not just a film but an experience. Prepare to be put under Guadagnino’s spell in a way that you would not expect.
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