Reboots and remakes are trends that Hollywood doesn’t seem to be shying away from anytime soon. Most remakes are terrible and were a poor idea to consider to begin with. Very rarely does a remake have a welcoming, engaging appeal to its execution. Even more rare than that does a remake manage to surpass the appeal, tone, story, and acting of the original. Somehow Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria set itself so far apart from the original that it almost needed a different name entirely.
Like the premise of the original movie made in the 70’s, Suspiria stars Susie Brannion, (Dakota Johnson), a dancer who arrives at a prestigious German dance company. Her audition captures the attention of staff but especially Madame Blanc. Across Six Acts and an Epilogue, darkness begins to descend on the company upon Susie’s arrival and no one is safe from what hides in the shadows.
It doesn’t take long to notice that Guadagnino’s Suspiria is nothing like original at all. The bright colors and playful pop horror sounds of the 70’s classic is replaced with heavy use of shadows and music with classical feel. Another major difference is the insistence on actually dancing. The trailer already lead me to believe that dancing will be a focal point of the film and it takes up quite a chunk of the movie whereas the original made me question why Jessica Harper’s Susie was there in the first place. The dancing initially captivates but an early and extremely graphic death scene prepares the audience for what’s to come.
The protagonist Susie is no mirror reflection of the original either. Jessica Harper’s Susie is a naive, scared girl with hardly any real dance skills trying to stay alive against witches confirmed in the film’s final moments . Dakota Johnson’s Susie is the exact opposite. Her initial naive, gentle nature feels a facade from the moment she prepares to dance for her audition. As the story progresses and she learns more about the women of the dance company, this Susie is nobody’s scared. Instead, she seems to enjoy her immediate rise of status and by the end of the film Susie is far more than her appearance.
The cast of the film is stellar with an appearance by Jessica Harper herself. Tilda Swinton plays multiple characters including a gender swap of a psychologist eager to learn the truth behind the academy. Another well written character is Sara, (Mia Goth). A fellow dancer that befriends Susie after the mysterious disappearance of her friend Patricia, Sara strongly mirrors the Susie of the original. Her curious nature leads her to learn more than expected and her despair is only met with a bitter end. The chemistry between Mia Goth and Dakota Johnson makes the ending of the film so much more poignant.
One of the negatives of the film appear toward the end of the nearly three hour film; Special effects. The camera does a weird, hazy look on Susie and appears once again throughout the masterful, confusing, terrifying, gory, and bloody Act Six. What could have been even more terrifying instead felt less serious as the camera slightly waters down the impact. Though ironically the sequence is the most colorful part of the film which felt like a nod to Darren Argento’s Suspiria.
Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is a nearly 3 hour long film that confronts so much more than murderous witches and tells a story of women enduring, thriving, and surviving through an awful part of history. The remake is far smarter, far more careful, far more thought provoking, and far more terrifying than the 70’s version. Strong fans of the original will either hate it immensely or love it but fans of the more popular horror style will certainly be bored throughout this almost 3 hour ride.
Ever since the credits rolled, I have been longing to see it again.
Rating: 9 out of 10