For those unfamiliar with the original, “Suspiria” is about a ballet academy run by witches. When a new coming dancer named Susie Bannion shows us, she begins to discover what truly lies behind the company’s mask. That’s about all that Luca Guadagnino’s version has in common with Dario Argento’s original. However, that does not mean, in any sense, that “Suspiria” does not live up to its predecessor. This film is one of the most unique, original, horrifying, mystifying and stomach churning movies in years.
In this version, when Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives, she is welcomed in open arms by Madam Blanc (Tilda Swinton) and Miss Tanner (Angela Winkler). Contrary to Argento’s “Suspiria”, here we know right off the bat that witches inhabit the school and are in search of a replacement for the dying Mother Markos, a grotesque looking witch who is only talked about until the end. Miss Tanner and Madam Blanc see potential in Susie, which shakes the school to its core, as Susie’s friend, Sarah (Mia Goth), grows more suspicious scene by scene.
Separate from the main plot is a story about a psychologist named Dr. Josef Klemperer who is helping a former troubled student (Patricia, played by Chloe Grace Moretz) overcome her traumatic experiences. As he investigates into this girl’s then sudden disappearance, he too becomes involved in what turns into one of the most blood drenched nightmares put on screen.
“Suspiria” is completely dark in tone and gets somehow darker as the film progresses. Audiences slowly get increasingly sucked into this nightmare that came right from the mind of Guadagnino. Surprisingly, this gifted filmmaker was the man behind last year’s “Call Me By Your Name”, a touching yet heartbreaking romance that takes place in a breathtakingly beautiful setting in 1970s Italy. The very fact that he can make that one year, and then step right into a topic like this shows how ranged he can be. Many more awe-inspiring films will come from this genius’s mind and he will surely continue to bring us to places we never thought we could go.
Mia Goth is brilliant and Chloe Grace Moretz gives us something captivating that she’s never done before. However, this is Dakota Johnson’s most transformative role. Given her roles in the “Fifty Shades” movies, she needed a film that could set her on the path for more diverse roles. “Suspiria” will, without a doubt, give her more chances to express her talents. Although, as great as she is, the big talk about this film is Tilda Swinton as there is a secret about her performance that has been revealed to the public. However, for those who don’t know, its better to not look it up. Realizing after movie will have much more of a mind-blowing effect. That said, her talents shine bright here.
The make up department for “Suspiria” deserves massive praise. There is a scene about thirty or forty minutes into the film that induces nausea. An incredible amount of makeup had to be put to work for this scene to come to life, and its one of the most horrifyingly realistic body horror scenes ever made. You’ll know it when you see it, trust me.
The film’s nightmarish qualities come to life through its mixing of horror sub-genres. It mixes body horror with supernatural and psychological horror. There are some incredibly grotesque scenes throughout, and from start to finish there is a foreboding feeling of dread that stays in our minds, even hours after viewing, much like in “The Shining”. “Suspiria” is clearly inspired by countless other horror films but takes many visual inspirations from the works of Stanley Kubrick and emotional ones from David Lynch (“Eraserhead”, “Blue Velvet”, “Mulholland Dr.”).
Watching “Suspiria” is an experience different from any other, one that many will not dare to venture on. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone. It’s weird, creepy, and not at all like the other conventional type of horror films that are constantly released (“The Nun”, “The Conjuring” etc). This film can’t be confidently recommend for everyone, but it’s worth the shot and is masterfully crafted enough to deserve attention and praise as one of the greatest horror films ever made.
Rated R for disturbing content involving ritualistic violence, bloody images and graphic nudity, and for some language including sexual references