Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, Malgorzata Bela, Elena Folkina, Jessica Harper and Chloë Grace Moretz
Run Time: 2h 32min
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
3 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
‘Suspiria,’ a remake of the 1977 cult classic of the same name, is a psychological thriller more than it is a horror. After watching, you’ll have an uneasy feeling in your gut for what it is you witnessed so the film does handle the responsibility of manipulating your state of mind quite well. However, it’s too long for no other reason than ego and indulgence on the part of the director, Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name). The performances were strong but even they can’t keep you interested for two and a half hours when the director constantly takes you in different directions, asking more effort on the part of the viewer to keep up than he may have originally bargained for. Movies are meant to be entertainment AFTER a long hard day of work, not be an addition to the workload. That said, if you can handle the length and get through an ostensibly uninteresting German psychiatrist character who doesn’t quite belong, there is a lot here. This being the case, I’d like to note that ‘Suspiria’ isn’t for those without an imagination. With its plot points perhaps incorrectly framed leading occasionally to boredom, it may take a lot out of you but what you’ll get in return if you’re willing to commit, is worth consideration. It does attack your faculties at first, but you’ll appreciate it more and more once you leave the theatre and it hits you as to exactly what it is you just observed. It’s unnerving, chilling and rather grotesque… but in a good way.
The story is, on the surface, about the experiences of Susie Bannion (Johnson) a dancer from America who goes to Berlin to dance with the famous Helena Markos Dance Company. When we finally get to the dancing in the film, you’ll be mesmerized by the power of it, the choreography and the performances. This is also when the true reason for the company to exist is revealed.
Susie comes at a time when a girl named Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) leaves the troop and Madame Blanc (Swinton), the woman who wrote and is directing the piece, is looking for her replacement. Susie is just that person. At this point in the film, you’re becoming aware of what the women who run the dance company are. They’re witches and once taken into the coven, you’re needed for a purpose and you’re not to leave. As Susie dances, we’re made blissfully aware of what happens if you try. This scene hooks you because with every step she performs, she jerks and manipulates the body of someone attempting to escape and it’s not a pretty sight.
Since we already know that the witches in this school of dance are more concerned with finetuning their witchcraft rather than churning out gifted students to graduate and live happy lives, you feel cheated out of the reason for staying but the dance sequence toward and the climatic ending itself will more than atone for Guadagnino’s mistake in revealing too much too soon. Artistically, the film is beautiful. The images are frightening. The cinematography is outstanding. What plays in your mind as you toy with whether or not the film is a nightmare someone can’t escape or a fight between good and evil is a direct result of how well it’s shot.
At times it’s tedious but other times it’s brutal and worth the dark halls you must meander through. Regardless, it’s satisfyingly imaginative so saddle up if you’re pleased more by artistry than by instantaneous indulgences. On the big screen is the way to see ‘Suspiria’ but might I suggest a matinee if you wouldn’t be happy when it lags.