Benjamin Clarke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Every year since I started college, there have been at least one or two horror films I have anxiously awaited (and, in some cases, overhyped). Expectations for each new release would vary, but they ultimately boiled down to one hope that I have held longer than I can remember; that a new horror film, made with passion, care, and the desire to go above and beyond the constraints of the jump scare, would terrify and disturb me long after exiting the theater, provoking sleepless nights and indescribable nightmares.
Such was the case this year for two films: Ari Aster's Hereditary, and Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria. While the former proved more than enough to recall childhood nightmares of creepy women (who often resembled my dear mother, or her mother) staring at me in the dark, it didn't conjure anything new in the nights that followed my first viewing. I'm not sure what this desire for cinema-induced fear says about me, but in any case, the bar was raised even higher in the months leading up to my most anticipated release of the year.
Before this long-winded take goes on any further, I'll cut right to the chase. My quest for The Ultimate Horror Film will continue next year, but I am in no way letting it overshadow the fact that Suspiria defied my selfish desires at every turn in ways I didn't know I wanted. About halfway through, I knew there was no way I could give this any sort of rating without seeing it again.
I've read quite a few takes on how Guadagnino subverts the idea of traditional remakes, as well as the underlying themes of cyclical evil throughout history, motherhood, female autonomy, and generational guilt. As fuel for my fascination with diving deeper into cinema, these takes are pure candy, and while I could offer my own mediocre riff on all that, there's something beautifully elusive about this film that I find more worthy of discussion.
I could probably read even more about what Guadagnino and screenwriter David Kajganich intended to say by updating this 41-year-old tale of witches by setting it in 1977 Berlin, but the truth is that none of it would bring me any closer to fully grasping the film in its entirety... and I am completely okay with that. A film this dense - and I mean absolutely stuffed with allegory, mythology, artistry, historical importance, festering evil, and gallons upon gallons of blood - doesn't deserve to be devoured all at once, or even over any period of time. It is a film that lingers behind, crawls up and down your body, and lives inside you for as long as you will it to.
For now, I am absolutely ecstatic to simply let it be what it is; a ferociously, blisteringly physical ode to the corporeal and spiritual power of women. It is a film that begs for feminine assertion and dominance, but somehow knows that, given time, these wishes will come true, and when they do, blood will be spilled, tears will be shed, and all our shame will be embraced as a means to finally end the cycle of atrocity and pain.
"It's beautiful... it's beautiful... it's beautiful."