I've started contributing for the London Horror Society (which is a great place to go for news, reviews and features on the world of horror) and my first review for them was of this year's Suspiria*...
The Hermanos had a rare cinema outing together recently to see Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria. First things first: this is not a piece about Argento’s film. I will attempt (and no doubt fail) to respond to this new film in its own right.
Both films follow Susie Bannion, a new member of a dance troupe (dance academy in the 1977 original) as she becomes enmeshed in a coven of witches. The two films follow similar beats, but differ in terms of emphasis.
Is it a good film?
It’s a little on the nose with some of the imagery—particularly thinking of multiple lengthy shots involving the Berlin Wall to emphasize the theme of divisions and conflict. It could do with a little off the top, the beginning and end of the film felt particularly in need of a trim. The opening 15-20 minutes felt unnecessary and we could have joined the story much later. It was a little slack, whereas Argento’s original was taut and constantly moving forwards.
When Guadagnino gets going with Suspiria, it’s wonderful. The gory, beautiful, final act (ignoring the epilogue) is stunning. It’s a set piece to rival Argento and made me wish there had been more of this throughout. The horror is born from the dancing and the troupe’s performance of their piece Volk is fantastic. This is a good film, maybe not a masterpiece, but still worth watching and it feels like a film that will stand up to multiple viewings.
I also particularly enjoyed the exchange between Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) and Susie (Dakota Johnson) about the concept of taking on the dance of another—which easily could have been about Guadagnino and Argento or Johnson taking on Jessica Harper’s role.
Guadagnino has absolutely tried to do something different from Argento-this isn't the Gus van Sant's Psycho school of remake. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. The music from Thom Yorke is a prime example of this-when it works, the music is stunning, but it fell apart a little for me whenever I heard Thom Yorke singing. This isn't to denegrate Thom Yorke's music, the songs are beautiful, but his voice is so distinctive that it is jarring to suddenly think "oh, that's Thom Yorke singing". The score is much more subtle than Goblin's frenetic soundtrack to Argento's film, but it has a hit-and-miss feel.
So: 2/3…a good film, but not phenomenal.
Did I enjoy it?
In a word: yes. The length of the film tested my patience a little, it absolutely could have been shorter and would have been a tighter, improved film for it. I was very conscious of feeling numb in my seat towards the end—which you don’t notice if the film has earned a long duration. I did enjoy it though, I loved Tilda Swinton’s performance and I thought the dance sequences were incredibly arresting.
I also loved the look and feel of the film. It is full of these 70s style zooms that have a physicality-the camera work is kinetic and full of life, but interspersed with long static shots. It is full of warped and distorted mirrors and this, coupled with the soft focus, gives a beautiful, woozy 70s feel to it.
Would I recommend it?
This is a tricky one. If it’s a question of Suspiria vs Suspiria and I have to recommend Argento or Guadagnino then I think I would have to lean towards Argento’s. The original Suspiria is a work of (hugely falwed) bizarre genius so while I think I prefer Guadagnino’s version, I would have to recommend the original.
So overall Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria gets a 6/10 from the Hermanos of Horror (or at least one of them) and a fervent wish that Argento will do a giallo take on A Bigger Splash.
*for a more detailed review...