Suspiria ★★★★★

"When you dance the dance of another, you make yourself in the image of its creator."

Dario Argento's Suspiria didn't really do much for me as it has for others. That's not to say it's a bad film, but I found it to be more of a mixed bag albeit still quite enjoyable. Luca Guadagnino's 'remake' and mystery-horror period piece, on the other hand, surprised and shocked me in more ways than one. I understand the polarizing nature of this film and why many won't like it, but I'm one of the people who loved this film; it's ideas, it's presentation, it's themes, it's setting...essentially all of it.

I personally was never bored throughout despite the slower pacing and length, though I'll admit it could do with a shorter runtime. The contextual background surrounding the main plot (1977's German Autumn period in Germany) seems redundant and pointless in a narrative sense at times, but still helps to conjure the dreary and gloomy atmosphere of Suspiria along with it's themes of isolation, identity, disorder and matriarchial power.

The story may be a drag for some, but it's intricately written nonetheless. As our main character, Susie, is lured into this new lifestyle as a dancer, she is unknowingly (at first) exposed to a world of dark, mystical forces vying for power and authority. The setting serves more of a purpose here than in the original, and we get to witness some fantastic choreography courtesy of Damien Jalet that is fundamental to the plot.

Guadagnino's reimagining differs in several ways to the original, and one of the most noticeable is the muting of colours as opposed to their exaggeration. A new atmospheric setting is forged by this decision-it's still a bizarre and grotesque nightmare, but not as viscously vibrant as Argento's film. This is an inventive new approach I appreciate as attempting to defy the conventions of a typical 'remake' and embracing his own vision, not just imitating the original with minor changes here and there. The 70s and 80s-style cinematography and editing compliments these gorgeous, as well as gory, scenes to create viscerally powerful visuals even when desaturated. These are accompanied by a sensual and equally other-worldly score by Thom Yorke, which despite being somewhat distracting, certainly has it's moments to shine in the film's best scenes.

Dakota Johnson gives an impressive performance, as do many of the other cast (Chloe Grace Moretz is particularly good). But by far the best acting is delivered by Tilda Swinton as not one, but three characters, two of whom are almost unrecognisable. Each performance is uniquely powerful and truly a testament to Swinton's versatilily and flexibility as an actress.

Overall, Suspiria (2018) is both gruesomely grotesque and delightfully daring ride sure to unsettle the psyches of viewers or even simply confuse them as to what they've watched. Is it pretentious? Potentially. Is it self-indulgent? Perhaps a little bit. For me however, it is ultimately superior to the original and amongst my favourite horror films of all time.

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