Fantastic Fest 2018: Suspiria
Suspiria came to play and does nothing to hurt Argento’s beloved original. In fact, it takes the bare minimum story and splashes its own original imagery making for a horror banger that will stick with you for a while. Director Luca Guadagnino hits you with jump cuts and bone popping body horror to shake you up and it completely works. Told in multiple acts, Suspiria takes us through witchcraft with no blinders. Gorgeously shot with a Berlin 1970s backdrop, Suspiria remains chilling from the get go with a ton of style that actually adds up to substance.
A dance school is home to a coven of witches and they have a serious job at hand. In order to pull off this important ritual, they need a young lady who can pull off some ill dance moves. Enter Dakota Johnson who wows the school with her raw natural talent and is taken in rather quickly. From then on it is pretty much off to the races. Suspiria does not give a damn about your feelings. It is designed to show us witches at their best/worst and will go to various ways to do so. This films wears a hard R-rating with pride by showing us new ways to destroy a body so it won't be for most general audiences. I fully expect people to get upset with the film especially after flipping out over Call Me By Your Name, seriously.
Tilda Swinton steals the show with two separate performances. One loaded with heartbreak and longing, the other is haunting and other worldly. Swinton has the ability to do so much with a stare and it is used like a weapon in this. Dakota Johnson is pretty damn amazing herself selling that grew-up-in-strict-religious-household demeanor. I’m not sure how much of the dancing is hers but the integration, if there is much, is seamless. She pulls off her doe-eyed innocence that boils into something else entirely.
Getting back to that setting, with the film set in the Baader Meinhof era, it grounds the film in a world where a public attack could happen at any moment. A bomb could go off, or a public shooting, or whatever horror you can imagine. This vibe is exactly how the film feels throughout. Things could implode within that dance school at any second. Uncomfortable moments layered on top of nightmares create this sense of Hell that we are somehow privy too. It feels wrong, damn near illegal that we are seeing this but here we are.
There is a lot unpack with Suspiria. It makes the mind zoom and to be blunt, greater minds than my own can probably decipher a much more deeper subtext or true meaning here but I would argue that is not the point. I saw that men are hopeless in this story, but of course there is much more to it than that. You are meant to be put under a spell with Thom Yorke’s dreamy score and Luca’s insane visual choices. It sings its own song, holding hands with Argento’s classic while still making it to the same destination.
The 152-minute runtime may be felt by some and quite frankly I had wished it had been longer. The feeling of Suspiria is one that I can’t wait to revisit again on the big screen. Everything about it pulls you in and then shotguns your brain with a finale that will be discussed forever. Moody and crazier than I ever could have imagined, I hope you let these witches show you a different slice of life.