Michael’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was not really sure what to feel about the remake of Suspiria in the lead up to its release. I liked the cast involved and while I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Call Me By Your Name (I liked it though), the direction by Luca Guadagnino was fantastic and he would no doubt bring something great to this movie. However I just wasn’t especially looking forward to it. I watched the original (and reviewed it) and I liked it, a classic horror flick with stunning visuals, still I wasn’t really hyped for the remake. It was only when I was hearing the polarising reactions that got me excited for it, and from then on until I saw it at an early screening on Halloween my hype for it had been building and building. I had a great feeling about the latest Suspiria, and somehow the movie surpassed my expectations completely. Suspiria goes far beyond being a remake of the original, a beautiful and horrific nightmare of a movie that’s in a league of its own.
I think I should address some of the differences from the original movie, just briefly. As a remake, the only thing that’s similar to the original movie is the characters names, the setting and the initial setup. There may be similar plot points but overall it goes in a completely different direction from the original. The original film is a straightforward horror slasher/mystery movie, with strange things happening around a dance academy and the protagonist tries to figure out what’s going on. In the new movie, you learn pretty early on the main thing about what is going on behind the scenes and it’s not much like a familiar horror movie (though definitely has a lot of horror elements). Another interesting aspect is that it really goes out of its way to reference the time and location, with radio reports in the background about a hostage situation, little things like are interesting to see introduced here. 2018’s Suspiria is really all about something different to the original, so you don’t necessarily have to watch the 70s movie to get the full experience, but for those who have, its interesting seeing to see how differently it does things. Overall though, it’s more of a reinvention than just a remake.
Suspiria is broken up into 6 acts (I know this because title cards literally announce it for the audience) and it is about 2 hours and 30 minutes long, and the length and pacing will turn a lot of people off. It’s not quite like a normal horror movie, there aren’t many scares, and it takes it’s time. So it’s more than just a really disturbing horror movie. Personally I liked the pacing but I will say the early part of the movie does move at a slower pace, a little too slow for my liking but that didn’t bother me too much. You really need to give the movie your complete focus and attention, otherwise you could miss some details that could make following certain plotlines very difficult. There are multiple story plots going on and you have to really keep up with everything, it’s really a movie that requires more than one viewing because there is so much to process. Also I feel like a big part of whether you’re going to love this movie is whether you are completely invested in it. As I said the movie was slower to begin with but by the time it got to a certain painful dance scene, I was completely drawn into the movie’s world and atmosphere. From then on as the mystery continued and we get to see and learn more about what is happening, all the way to the 6th act which goes absolutely nuts. By the end I just felt exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s a lot to take in but I think it was all around a really rewardable experience. I tried my best to keep the plot details vague, it’s best going in not knowing too much about where this movie is going, I know this from personal experience.
The cast in here is all fantastic. Dakota Johnson as the lead character Susie is good but isn’t immediately impressive, it’s not like you instantly find her great or find her standing out from the rest. However, over time as the movie progresses you really get why Dakota Johnson is cast (just wait to see for yourself) and overall she was great. I feel like her performance will actually be better upon rewatches. Susie in the original movie (played by Jessica Harper) was much more of an innocent newcomer to the dance school sort of noticing weird and dangerous things and sort of investigating it. Dakota Johnson’s version is… different. Tilda Swinton is always fantastic in the movies that she’s in and her performance(s) here are no exception. Since it’s pretty known already now I won’t refrain from mentioning it (don’t worry it’s not a spoiler and doesn’t tie into the plot at all), she does play 3 roles, not just the role of Madame Blanc as advertised. She’s great as Blanc, the academy director. Her other role is as a psychotherapist named Josef Klemperer (Tilda originally playing the role under the name of Lutz Ebersdorf), a character not in the original movie and she’s very convincing. This character notices things aren’t quite right at the academy and a plotline is focussed on him looking into what’s happening. She also plays a third role that is probably best seeing for yourself. Also great is Mia Goth, I liked her in A Cure for Wellness and I loved her here as well. Here she’s one of the dancers and outside of Josef is really the one investigating what’s happening in the dance academy. She also gives the most human performance of all of the cast, I can’t wait to see more of her work. Chloe Grace Moretz is also good, although isn’t in the movie a ton. The rest of the cast are also really good.
From watching Call Me By Your Name, I knew that Luca Guadagnino would craft this movie well (even though they are completely different movies) and he absolutely did. One of the biggest changes from the original movie (and that’s saying a lot) is that the striking technicolour lighting and bright colour pallet is gone. Once again, Guadagnino goes for his own kind of movie, it is less colourful, less fantasy like and really giving off a feeling that’s much more cold and dark, and that was perfect for the film that Luca is going for (besides, no one could recreate the original’s visual style). The cinematography is really fantastic, the movements and everything were done so incredibly well, especially during the dance sequences. Despite it being set at a dance school, the original movie didn’t place too much emphasis on the dancing aspect but it does play a big part in the newer movie. So much of the dancing is animalistic and nightmarish, and were among some of the highlights of the movie. No, the movie wasn’t very scary, but I don’t think it was trying to be, not in a conventional horror sense at least. It is however very quite disturbing, if you are easily squeamish, this won’t do it for you. There are some very grotesque and gory sequences throughout the movie and particulary at the end. There’s particularly an infamous and much talked about scene in the 2nd or 3rd act (you know the one), by that point if you can’t handle that scene, the rest of the movie isn’t going to do it for you. I will admit that I don’t get uncomfortable in movies a lot, but here they really do make it hard to watch, really uncomfortable and chilling, so credit to Guadagnino for making them effectively horrifying.
Most of the visual effects are also pretty great, bar one that was used many times and it just looked out of place and goofy, like it should’ve been in the 1977 original instead of the 2018 version (you’ll know it when you see it). The editing is so effective, it makes the tense moments even more suspenseful and the hard to watch scenes much more biting and impactful. Sometimes there are some random shots spliced together in a nightmarish sort of way that gives a really unnerving feeling. The music by Thom Yorke is very unsettling and haunting, perfect for the movie. On another note, try to watch this in a cinema, I was very lucky to catch this in an early screening and I can’t imagine watching this on a smaller screen, it just wouldn’t have the same impact.
Suspiria was a completely overwhelming experience that blew me away on all fronts. The direction by Luca Guadagnino was fantastic, the cast were great and it still has stuck with me every since I saw it. It’s also not for everyone, even if you know what kind of movie you’re getting into beforehand there’s no guarantee that you’ll love or even like this movie. If you are able to stomach some brutal scenes and have patience for a slow moving 150 minute long movie, then at least give it a try, and try to watch it in the cinema. For me, this is one of the best horror films in recent years, one of the best films of the year, and currently (I know I’ve been saying this a lot recently) my personal favourite of 2018.