This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Ethan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
(I just want to point out that I watched this film without subtitles, meaning that parts where characters talk in German/French completely went over my head. I figured out the complete story when I read the synopsis on Wikipedia, and therefore I think I need to watch it again. I think I now understand 2018's Suspiria enough to write this review about it.)
From the very beginning, Luca Guadagnino and all those involved in 2018's Suspiria made it clear that it's not so much a remake of Dario Argento's 1977 classic as it is a re-imagining. As such, I think it's fair to think of this Suspiria as wholly different to its 1977 predecessor, bar the fact that they have the same characters and setting. I'll try not to make this review a comparison between 1977 and 2018's Suspirias, and instead focus on the latter.
I, for one, am a big fan of the 1977 original(yes, using the term 'original' contradicts what I said about not considering this new version a remake, but it's easier this way). When I heard that the director of Call Me by Your Name and its cinematographer was going to make Suspiria, I was very excited. I wasn't near any film festivals, nor did my country release the film in theaters, so all I could do was hold back my excitement until a day would come when I would finally be able to watch it. The day finally came, and I've finished the film and... that was certainly an experience, wasn't it?
Suspiria is terrifying, it's disgusting, and it's beautiful in equal measure. It's quiet, suspenseful, and suddenly it overwhelms the viewer with a burst of grotesque visuals, colors, and flashbacks. While most of its runtime is full of purposefully muted colors to better fit the gloomy, cold aesthetic of a divided wintertime Germany, the combination of inspired camerawork — a couple of shots using snap zoom comes to mind — and genuinely discomforting sound design makes the film as gripping as it should be. At this point, I'm convinced that Luca Guadagnino and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom are the golden duo of director-cinematographer, because they compliment each other's styles so well. Thom Yorke's score for this film is truly the best I've heard in 2018, Goblin would be proud.
If 1977's Suspiria was an astonishing output on a technical level(the Technicolor marvel that graces every shot), 2018's version is equally mind-blowing on a narrative level. Who would've guessed that Suzy Bannion was the unreliable narrator to end all unreliable narrators? She turns out to be Mother Suspiriorum, which is very subtly hinted at when we see her slowly get seduced by the dance and becomes more confident. Dakota Johnson portrayed a good enough transition onscreen that I was just able to buy the slightly out-of-the-blue revelation. I like how the story's more focused on the dance this time, utilizing its dance academy setting to conjure up what I like to call the 'ballet school horror feeling™'. And then there's the underlying themes of motherhood and abuse, both of which fit into Suzy's character and make the film more layered. Needless to say, I think everyone would admit that 2018's Suspiria has a far more interesting plot than its 1977 counterpart, due to the 1977 Suspiria barely having one.
Needless to say, everyone was great. I think the breakout performance was Tilda Swinton as Dr. Josef Klemperer because even though I could recognize her voice from a mile off, she was able to portray this old man really well under all that prosthetic. The choreographers were amazing, Mia Goth was amazing, and Dakota Johnson was okay to good. The only big complaint I have is that the explanation felt rushed and the final twenty minutes, while being a tour de force, still made me feel like I wasn't getting the whole story.
Alright, now I'm going to say something that will piss a lot of people off and capture the hearts of a select few. Here goes my 𝒽𝑜𝓉 𝓉𝒶𝓀𝑒: 2018's Suspiria is, in my mind, the closest film we'll ever get to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. They're both films where we know the threat from the start, but are still terrified due to the way they're introduced. Both their scores are inexplicable and horrifying, and the direction is both smooth and beast-like in a way that induces a terrible, anxious feeling — which is what I label as the quintessential horror film emotion. I'm not saying this film is anywhere near the level of The Shining, but I'm saying it has many similar aspects, both in narrative and technical terms. I feel like Stanley Kubrick would have preferred Guadagnino's Suspiria to Argento's.
I've been waiting for Suspiria for about half a year, and I'm glad to say that it was well worth the wait. Luca Guadagnino's turn into horror territory works well due to his detailed, emotive storytelling and for once, adding plot elements to the original storyline really works. 2018's Suspiria is unapologetically gory(bodies being mutilated, rotten, and sliced open) and its core strength comes from the fact that it maintains an uneasy, unsettling atmosphere and doesn't rely on cheap jump-scares. Plus, the final twenty minutes of this film is perhaps the most mind-boggling and intense I've seen in recent watches.