Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Elena Fokina, Sylvie Testud, Renée Soutendijk, Christine LeBoutte, Fabrizia Sacchi, Małgosia Bela, Jessica Harper, Chloë Grace Moretz
Written by: David Kajganich, based on a screenplay by Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing content involving ritualistic violence, bloody images and graphic nudity, and for some language including sexual references
Running Time: 152
Date: 10/26/2018

Suspiria (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dances of Death

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This remake runs a full hour longer than Dario Argento's original 1977 horror masterpiece Suspiria, and it eventually loses its way, but it also contains powerful, unsettling imagery that's hard to dismiss.

In Suspiria, Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) bangs on the door of her therapist, Dr. Josef Klemperer (Lutz Ebersdorf, but really Tilda Swinton in heavy makeup), claiming that terrible things are happening in the Berlin dance academy she attends. Then, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives in town and learns that there is an open slot in the school; Patricia has disappeared.

Susie nails her audition, impressing teacher Madame Blanc (Swinton). When another girl disappears, Susie also manages to take over the lead role in the current production. Meanwhile, all of the girls suffer creepy nightmares. The friendly Sara (Mia Goth) begins poking around in secret rooms of the school, and then finds her leg broken during a performance. Dr. Klemperer also begins poking around and, finally, discovers something truly horrifying.

New to the horror genre, Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino seems to hedge his bets with Suspiria. He sets the movie in 1977, and includes many socio-political asides, such as frequent radio broadcasts about the Baader-Meinhof Group. Swinton gives a tour-de-force performance in her heavily-made-up role as Dr. Josef Klemperer, a Holocaust survivor who mourns his wife. But as the movie drags on, neither the radio broadcasts, nor Klemperer, seem to have much to do with the actual story.

It becomes clear that these things are nothing more than safety nets, decorations to make the movie seem more important. (It's a movie about female power, but turns its focus increasingly toward a man.)

In the dance school sequences, however, the movie becomes genuinely creepy. Nothing scary actually happens for almost an hour, but Guadagnino sets up a nerve-rattling mood with his off-kilter angles and arhythmic cutting, as well as sets like a mirrored room and dance costumes that look like dripping blood. And when the time comes to ramp up the gore, he doesn't hold back. Thom Yorke's melancholy score helps things a great deal.

Often the nightmare imagery can leave you wondering what's going on, and it's certainly far too serious to be fun — it's no match for the original — but Guadagnino's vision can hardly be called ineffective.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release comes with a digital copy. Picture and sound (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) are superb. Bonus features include three behind-the-scenes featurettes: "The Making of Suspiria" (4 minutes), "The Secret Language of Dance" (4 minutes), and "The Transformations of Suspiria" (4 minutes). There are optional English subtitles, and trailers for several other Amazon Studios releases at startup.

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