Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Luca Guadagnino's blood soaked reimagining of Dario Argento's giallo classic is a hell of a ride, that unfortunately falls short of reaching a sublime level of modern horror due to few key missteps.
"When you dance a dance of another, you make yourself in the image of it's creator."
While the story of an American girl who travels to Berlin to join a dance company that is run by a covenant of witches remains the premise of both films, the way they are stylistically presented and the scope of the story are where they differ greatly.
Major differences between the original and the remake:
Original: Dazzling bright vibrant colors
Remake: Muted earth tones
Original: Very cheesy dated horror effects
Remake: Brutally violent and grotesque body horror
Original: Witches are a mysterious presence
Remake: We see the witches plotting throughout
Original: Not much to note on the setting or time frame
Remake: Distinctly set in cold war era Berlin
Original: A film about dancers with surprisingly very little dancing
Remake: Fantastic dance choreography
Original: Unforgettable score from Goblin
Remake: The music did not really stand out my first watch
"Love and manipulation, they share houses very often. They are frequent bedfellows."
The eerie dinginess of the atmosphere and setting in Guadagnino's Suspiria was an excellent touch that suited the style of horror in the film. The movement of the camera and the whispers we hear were a great way of depicting the watchful presence of the witches around the dance studio.
The horrific moments are intense as we see and hear bones crunch as a result of the witches power. In the films first significant moment of horror we are shown how Madame Blanc played by Tilda Swinton makes it so Susie's dance causes one of the girls that has fallen out with the studio to be viciously contorted by Susie's movements, to point where she becomes a mangled body. And we even see the fluid that has been squeezed from her bladder.
Being in this cold war era setting, we see many references to terrorism on the news which was a great way to add context to the troubled times the story is taking place in. There is also many references to the aftermath of the Nazi regime on the German people.
Like I mentioned before the dancing is excellent especially during the main performance where the girls are dressed in red tassels, and during the climax when they are performing the witches' ritual. Also I enjoyed the divine confidence and presence that Dakota Johnson had as Susie, and we get to see why she has no fear of what's happening around her during the climax.
The witches are playfully devious and play some nasty tricks like luring the Dr. to enter their lair by conjuring the resemblance of his dead wife. There is also that scene where they hypnotize the cops and take their pants off and mock them. While the scary scene where Susie is shown climbing up a wall is isolated to a dream, that sequence was very effective with how frightening the flashes of horror were.
"This isn't vanity! This is art!"
Now to the Negatives:
Many of the conversations between the witches is in German, and don't recall their official introductions. So for most of the movie I did not know was who, which was significant especially during the voting scene when I was unsure about who Blanc and Markos even were. I liked how most of the subtitles were red to possibly indicate when a witch was talking, and the other subtitles were blue when a regular person was talking.
Tilda Swinton playing Dr. Josef Klemperer did not work for me at all! I knew it was her and while the acting was fine, she was distracting to look at. Plus I did not give a shit about this character, but for some reason they force the Dr. into the main character spot by the end of the film. I remember thinking during the third act, why the hell did we cut away from the witch stuff to follow this guy around??? I would have liked to care about him since he did have a tragic story about his wife being killed during the holocaust, but I was way more invested in what Susie was doing.
For the most part I really enjoyed the blood soaked climax, but Blanc's head being magically half chopped off was so silly, especially with the blood that appeared to be CGI. So at that point I thought Markos was the demon looking creature, but she ended up being the grotesque blob witch. And the demon was who Susie summoned to cleanse the covenant... I guess. It was fun to see this creature kill several witch's by causing their heads to spray blood everywhere, which turned the entire scene red. I also liked how Susie ended up being Mother Suspira, but I wish Sara played by Mia Goth could have had some kind of reaction to this since she was her one friend. Instead she gets mangled and then put into a trance before all this even goes down.
So ultimately those few directions with how the story played out were what found most problematic about the film. But overall I do admire Guadagnino for taking his version of Suspiria in such different stylistic direction, with some extreme horror and a major plot twist.
Thanks for reading!
Happy movie watching ... cheers!