Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a gory classic with the most incredible colour palettes to ever grace a horror film. It’s brisk running time, corny script and iconic score only adds to the film’s everlasting legacy. So, when it was announced that the 1977 classic would be remade there were murmurings of discontent among horror aficionados who wondered if anything sacred was safe from the evils of a remake? Then Luca Guadagnino announced himself as director and, following the success of A Bigger Splash and Call Me By Your Name, people were curious.
You can call the 2018 film a remake but in truth the film’s similarities start and end at the characters and basic plot, therefore making it an entirely different beast. Clocking in at 155 minutes the film is almost an entire hour longer than the 1977 original and it does suffer from its bloated running time. The film’s bloated running time is in part due to the pollical subtext. The film is set in 1977 (the year the original was released) and deals with themes of national guilt in a divided Berlin (the dance school is situated right next to the Berlin Wall).
This is all sounds very interesting, and does create an interesting back drop, but it doesn’t really say anything new about the era. The film hints that blame should be laid at those in power rather than those who witnessed what happened but did nothing. This is hardly a new way of thinking, so it ends up being rather pointless and unnecessarily distraction from the tense story of witches harvesting young dancers for consumption by the mother witch.
What is also is a major drawback with the national guilt theme is that it’s incredibly distracting watching the film with the knowledge that Dr. Josef Klemperer is Tilda Swinton dressed up in old man prosthetics. It’s distracting because it feels like a superficial piece of stunt casting. Swinton said this was “only a little bit of fun“ but this “little bit of fun” was nothing more than a vanity project that completely derailed a potentially interesting subplot. This all is just because I couldn’t take Tilda Swinton parading around in poor prosthetics equipped with a heavy German accent seriously. On the plus side, Swinton is superb as Madame Blanc and Dakota Johnson’s performance has tremendous physicality (her dancing showed great dedication to the role), but the slow delivery of her lines becomes grating.
What’s most different about the 1977 Suspiria and the 2018 Suspiria is that the latter isn’t a horror in the same way the 1977 film is, but the 2018 film still mostly fails on the basics of the genre. The film’s length hampers the tension because the film’s bagginess does not allow the tension to be sustained throughout. That said, there are a few scenes that are deeply horrifying, most notably the dancing sequence where a spell is cast upon Susie which contorts a fellow dancer’s body to mirror Susie’s dance moves. Criminally, despite all the weirdness on show and a climax that resembles something from the movie Climax, the film forgets to be scary but maybe it was trying to be (in the traditional sense at least).
Despite being long, baggy and bizarrely paced the film isn’t boring, visually it’s too well made and enticing to be boring. It’s certainly luxurious and beautifully made (even if the colour palette is the opposite of the 1977 original). The dance scenes are edited with an intoxicating excitement, almost as though a spell is cast upon you. The makeup effects are beautifully disgusting and the film appealingly gory, but the film is too long and too baggy to sustain the tension.