In 1977, Dario Argento made an aesthetically beautiful, colorful and terrifying horror movie called Suspiria. Known for giallos up until that point, this film broke the mold for the filmmaker, and this film, along with it’s original soundtrack by the band Goblin has since become a cult favorite among horror buffs. It came as a shock to most as to why someone would want to remake such a singular unique cult favorite. I suppose the reason for any remake is to re-tell the story through another’s vision, for perhaps another audience. Out the gate, I’m quick to say that I’m not a fan of remakes, but some great classic films are remakes; Little Shop of Horrors, Scarface, Frankenstein, to name a few. So to say they are always unnecessary isn’t fair. The difference between the remake of Suspiria and really any other remake of a movie of its caliber, is that the original still stands on its own. The original Scarface was about a different guy, in a different place, and time. Powerful stuff, but a pre-code Hollywood movie, and filmmaking had changed dramatically by 1983 when Brian DePalma and Oliver Stone got a hold of it. Same with Little Shop– here, we have a film version of the Broadway musical based on the Roger Corman B-movie. Both movies are hitting audiences that most likely the originals would never meet. Suspiria, though over 30 year old and by all intents and purposes, a foreign film, is still widely accessible and wildly popular. This all being said, it is hard to place what the intended audience is for the remake. I’m tempted to say the remake is for those who loathed the original, or horror films in general, but based on chatting in my own social circle, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, suspiria follows a young American dancer, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), as she auditions and joins the Helena Markos Dance Company in Berlin, Germany. There, she is met with creepy character and bizaaree occurances, ultimately discovering that the company is just a front for a coven of witches who use the young dancers’ energeries for their own puposes. Meanwhile, an aging psychotherapist tries to uncover the darkness to the Company.
Separated into 6 acts and then an epilogue, and at almost two and a half hours, this movie is long. Thom Yorke’s soundtrack is minimalist, not that noticeable except for at the beginning of the acts, where there is a music video-like segment that opens the act. These songs could be likened to starts of songs that Yorke wrote and recorded and is going to present to the rest of Radiohead for the rest of the band could add their respective parts.
Dakota Johnson’s Susie is devoid of personality and emotion. She is perfect to cast in a role where you just want the audeicne to forget about who the girl is- it’s like she doesn’t matter. The best performances are from Tilda Swinton as Helena Markos, Madame Blanc, and Dr. Josef Klemperer. She has provern with her performances in this movie that she can make anything cool. From her super-70s witchy gowns to her believable and passionate performance as the old man, she was easily one of the best parts of the film.
When not loosing interest because the scenes are so drab, with either snowy or just a general washed out brown color, I was grossed out. But not delightfully grossed out- there is a lot of urine and mention of urine in this movie and I had to take a break as I was trrying to enjoy coffee while I watched this. Death scenes were drawn out and akin to torture porn rather than true moments of suspense or fear. The scenes focused a lot on the dance routines, which were difficult to watch. The moves are very uncomfortable, most of the time they are on the ground, gyrating with their asses in the air in the LEAST SEXIEST WAY POSSIBLE. The scenes were shot disjointedly, so that the movements were not lyrical, and they were all done to no music. Especially memorable to me was a scene where Ms. Markos makes Susie jump over and over again, higher and higher. There was a lot of loud abrasive thumpings on the floor during dance scenes since there isn’t any music. For an example of a great way to shoot movement and dance, check out avant-garde short film The Very Eye of Night by Maya Deren. Most of her work, done between the 40s-60s, deals with cheorographed movement, be it martial arts or dance.
Other than Swinton’s performances, the props and costumes were super-70s fun. The furniture, rugs, and pretty much everything a character touched were very beauitufl items.
I want to say that if you saw the original and hated it, give this one a shot. But I don’t consider Suspiria one of my favorites, and I still didn’t enjoy this one. This one adds in some seriousness, not only with the drab snowiness of the look, but by also mentioning the true-to-life historical horror of being at a concentration camp during the Holocaust. This movie reminded me not of a horror film, but a long winded art-film that I would most likely loose interest in rather quickly. The climax, though bloody, and teeming with grossout moments, lacked suspense and wasn’t worth it since I wasn’t able to foster any feelings for the main characters.