Film Review: Suspiria (2018)

08:20 November 05, 2018
By: David Vicari

Almost...but not quite. While the Suspiria remake is its own movie and not just a lazy carbon copy of the original, its arty pretentiousness and bloated running time eventually cause it to deflate.

The year is 1977 and Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), a repressed young woman from a Mennonite family in Ohio, is admitted into a prestigious dance academy in Kreuzberg, West Berlin. This dance academy, however, is run by a coven of witches who are looking for new younger vessels.

Tilda Swinton is the lead choreographer of the school, Madame Blanc. She also plays, flawlessly and in heavy make-up, elderly male psychotherapist Dr. Josef Klemperer, who is searching for a missing student. Her third role is that of another witch.

The original Suspiria, made in 1977 and directed by Italian horror and suspense master Dario Argento, is a stylistic masterpiece. The plot doesn't really make sense, but that actually works for Argento's movie instead of against it, giving it the feel of a bad dream.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name, I Am Love), this remake is smart and has a carefully constructed plot as well as complicated characters. Johnson's character and Swinton's Madame Blanc have an interesting and layered relationship, and the two actresses have good chemistry together. There is also a nice cameo by the original's leading lady, the lovely Jessica Harper.

The remake runs exactly one hour longer than the original, and this overlength lessens its impact. Then, some scenes, especially the big finale, go for pretentious and eloquent imagery when it should just cut loose with down and dirty horror. Don't get me wrong, there are a few startling moments, like when a victim's body is made to contort until it is bruised and broken. But nothing here compares to the room of razor wire scene from the original.

The new Suspiria isn't bad, but greatness escapes it. 

** ½ out of four

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