Yes, friends. It is 2018, and I am reviewing a new version of our favorite Argento masterpiece. I say "our" favorite...because if you come around these parts often, then I gather that you are probably as big a fan of the original as I am. The film we are discussing is none other than Suspiria. And...it's a doozy.
The very first thing to consider when approaching this new incarnation of a beloved Italian classic is the running time—it is a mammoth. I'm not dicking around here. This new film clocks in at 2 hours and 32 minutes. That time does not go quickly, either. You feel every goddamned second; It is a sludgy Chinese water torture of a film. I say that in the kindest way possible. After all, there are things that I liked about this remake.
Ok...so, I really loved the camera work of this new Suspiria. Everything looks gorgeous. The set designs and the costuming are a feast for the eyes. Especially when you consider that you are going to be staring at this stuff for a long period of time. You can tell that they spent some money on this film, a cool $20Mil to be exact (I wish they would give Argento a budget like that to shoot a comeback giallo. That would be something). But...yeah...the film looks lovely.
|Reflections of Dakota Johnson as Suzy Bannion (left) and the amazing Tilda Swinton as Madame Blanc (right) practicing in a secret dance chamber.|
Another aspect that I quite liked in the film is the direction in which the Suzy Bannion character developed. I won't reveal anything regarding the details, so as not to spoil the experience (in case you do feel like squirming in a theater seat for a few hours), but I will say that the character has an evolutionary depth that the original film did not. This gave the new Suspiria promise, although it did not entirely follow through. In a much tighter film and a much better performance of her role (more on that later), Suzy Bannion might have been a more formidable character study. What I mean to say is that there are threads of this film's Suzy that make more sense than the original, and that I would have adored much more than the original—had her character been more fleshed out and better performed. Instead, she feels like somewhat of a co-star as opposed to the prima donna.
I did enjoy the gore and the overall FX in the film. There were scenes that were both disturbing and memorable. Bravo to the make-up and FX department. They really did a stellar job in that regard and helped to create an experience that sets the new Suspiria apart from its original in...well...an original way.
Tilda Swinton's other-worldly brilliance in just about any role was a positive aspect of this film. I will say, and I'll expound on this in a little bit, that her secondary role was pretty impressive...even if painfully unnecessary. Guadagnino elaborated upon the internal struggles of the character of Madame Blanc to the point where one might say that she is more developed than Suzy Bannion. Her character would have been extraordinary… had it been a role with more significance and weight to the film itself. Still, she proves to be one of the highlights in an otherwise over-long exercise in over self-indulgent filmmaking.
I will say that I absolutely adored the feminine voice this film clearly has despite it being directed by an Italian man. It really feels like a female-driven film. This is super important, considering that it is a horror film about a coven of witches running a dance school. The original also felt hyper-feminine (mostly because of Nicolodi's voice); It's nice to see that element intact in this new version.
|No color gels, my arse! While the film isn't bleeding with colors...there are moments when colors are used to great effect.|
Ok. Let's discuss the stuff that kept me from really liking this film. In all seriousness, I really, really wanted to adore this new incarnation of Suspiria. I say that with the utmost sincerity. I mean, I will always have the original masterpiece. I'm not one of those worrisome fans who fears that a new remake of a beloved film will taint or even ruin the original at all. That, to me, is just nonsensical thinking. I did, however, deliberately set aside my love for Argento's Suspiria in order to appreciate and welcome this new version into my heart. I feel, despite its allure and the strength of its predecessor, that it did not quite fulfill all that it had promised.
I wanted this film to be much more of a gut-punch...or something along the lines of what The Witch delivered a couple of years ago. That certain feeling of dread that ultimately becomes something more. Instead it was all posturing. Nothing more. There are those that would like to tell you that this Suspiria cuts much deeper. They will attempt to tell you that they loved it; that this was a masterpiece on a different level; to stop judging this film through Argento-filters. I wish it were that simple, my friends. There's some kind of weird phenomenon going on with this film. People walked out of it, chanting from the social media mountaintops that they didn't know what the hell just happened...but, they loved it. I honestly don’t understand that hyperbole...and wished to the Italian gods up above that I watched the same film that those people did.
I'll start at the beginning.
There's a line in which Chloe Grace Moretz's Patricia utters, “...they will scrape out my insides and eat my cunt on a platter,” or something to that effect. I winced. Not because the line struck a nerve of stomach-turning fear or anything like that. It was just a groan-inducing, lame line. It was the cinematic equivalent of a kid trying way too hard to be accepted at a party; It was too forced, and it signaled where this film was going. In a much better film...like The Exorcist, for instance...a line like..."your mother sucks cocks in hell" is so much more potent and transcendent.
Another example of this can be seen in the musical score. There’s a scene in the third act (or sixth act...haha) where evil things are happening on screen as the titular Mother of this film appears finally (which I kinda really liked the look of, btw), but all of the evil is softened and, dare I say, jubilant (?!)…thanks to the soothing sounds of Thom Yorke's singing. I mean...I kind of understand why the makers of this film flocked to Thom Yorke to see what he could pull off as an alternative to the brilliance of Goblin before him. And, what was the result of this inspired idea?? Well… Thom Yorke, of course. Every single track of this film feels like Yorke just handed in his solo album. Nothing more. Yorke's singing manages to suck out the malevolence of a finale that deserved a much more powerful crescendo.
|I really liked the costumes in this film. Even these odd dance outfits. Here's Suzy (Johnson) and Sara (Mia Goth) in said costumes.|
Dakota Johnson is just all wrong for this film. I don't care what anyone says...her Suzy Bannion (I will fucking spell it "Suzy" until the day that I die. I don't care what IMDb says about the new film) just doesn't hold any real weight. It feels like she's just meandering through the film… stumbling from one scene to the next without any real purpose other than to impress her dance instructors with her manic modern interpretive dancing skills. Whereas Jessica Harper had a specific look that captivated viewers, Johnson just does not possess any kind of real magnetism. She does not display the charisma necessary to hold anyone's attention or even the drive to understand what is going on around her. There's a scene in which she goes off with this film's Sally, played by Mia Goth (who is actually much more intriguing...and I kinda wish the story revolved around her character), to investigate the whereabouts of their friend, Patricia (Moretz). Suzy happens upon a few witches doing some truly bizarre things to a couple of police investigators… and she just casually laughs it all off. In a weird kind of way, it feels as if this film doesn't even understand how to properly handle this new interpretation of Suzy Bannion. It just feels all wrong. Her character should have carried more weight, especially considering what this film attempts with her in the final act.
As for the German Cold War comparison between the witchy dance academy to that of a Nazi concentration camp… It didn’t really come through. I can tell that it was trying hard to express those things whenever flashes of those notions popped up here and there. It shows hints in random glimpses. Rather than elaborate on those elements, it just lingered on those shots (a few minutes too long) and made it feel awkward as opposed to significant. For example, the film zoomed into a television news broadcast about notable figures that were kidnapped amidst the protesting and social turmoil after the war. While I do appreciate those little atmospheric touches that were not in the original Suspiria, I don't feel like they were handled in any kind of relevant way.
|I really wish Dakota Johnson was much stronger as Suzy Bannion. Apparently she did a lot of therapy after this role. *shrugs*|
Speaking of relevant...the Dr. Josef Klemperer character--the old psychiatrist that the film tries to follow for a lot of its running time… was completely arbitrary. While I appreciate the random splashes of heart and longing, that particular character felt as if he just showed up on set from a totally different screenplay and added ZERO to the rest of the story. ZERO. Despite the character being played by the amazingly talented----oh...well...I guess I will leave you to discover that on your own. Although, I hinted of this earlier in this review, and a quick IMDb search would certainly help you with that bit of knowledge.
Anyway...this review is getting to be as long as the goddamned film. Did I enjoy the film? No—At least not as much as I anticipated. Would I see it again? Only if I didn't have to pay...and was sitting in a comfortable chair. Would I recommend this new version of Suspiria? Well...of course I would. I do believe that it is a film that must be seen for yourself in which to formulate your own opinions of it. It does look as if I'm in the minority here with my opinions...so there's that. I will say it is a LOOOOONG movie that ultimately doesn't know that it is not as smart as it thinks it is. It is apparent that Guadagnino is a talented filmmaker. It is also very apparent that he is also especially aware of his own talents. Because...why would you edit yourself if you feel that you are AMAZING? And that, ladies and Deviants, is what impairs this new Suspiria experience in the end. Because I definitely get the sense that there is an hour and a half cut of this film that is breathtaking.
Also...I used the original font from the original film for that Mondo poster all the way up above because fuck that new logo font. It sucks.
|Mother Suspiriorum wants a new dance partner.|
A HUGE THANK YOU to the amazing Chelsea Noelle for editing this review for me. If it were not for her kind talents...you would be reading a book of my insane babbling of this film. GRAZIE MILLE!
Thanks for reading,