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Review: Suspiria

It’s 2018 and the word is not “remake”, it’s “re-imagine”.

In a generation of remakes and sequels, the theatre has become a money grab before an art form. Films are crafted in the shadows of proven classics to bring in the moolah, and far too often are they crafted in a place of safety, unwilling to take the step to become “classic” themselves. Thankfully, Guadagnino is unwilling to make this sacrifice. In fact, he is asking the entire industry to cement their definition of “remake” as “a re-imagining”.

This is not Dario Argento’s horror masterpiece, it’s Luca Guadagnino’s.

Suspiria doesn’t try to recreate the rich colors and all the other clear visual cues of the original. What it does try and capture however is the spirit of the film – a terrifying descent into an unexplained and unprecedented evil. The results are something entirely fresh yet eerily familiar in the best ways possible, but on his trek into the unknown Guadagnino finds himself creating a tale that doesn’t entirely work at times. Make no mistake though, when the terror, dancing, and music all comes together Suspiria is a horror experience unlike any other.

The script, which is meticulously crafted by David Kajganich, is a far cry from Argento’s, which is extremely surprising considering the fact that he also help with the writing process. When you take a closer look at the story, you do see a deeper dive into the ideas Argento originally presents – it’s arguably a more robust and fully realized version of the original. The characters are a definitive part of this re-imagining, and the actors who bring them to life are nothing short of incredible. Dakota Johnson takes lead as our new Suzy Banyon, the American in a strange and fascinating Berlin in 1977. A black rose in bloom, Dakota walks the fine line of humble aspiration and rising power as she takes the floor to dance as Suzy, bringing an untouched dimension to the character. Playing across from her is the majestic Tilda Swinton as the Madame Blanc. Of all the performances in the film, her’s is absolutely entrancing. She evokes every ounce of unease and terror within you with a single drag of a cigarette as she stares into and past. Her friendship with Luca has undoubtedly brought a shared fascination with the character but where Swinton takes it must be far beyond any of them ever imagined. Mia Goth is also given some runway to finally fly in this film, and she soars. Her performance as Sarah is the one aspect of this film which is undeniably better than the original.Everything from about her journey and her performance makes a borderline comical character from the original someone to care about. She feels real. They all feel real making the terror something that hits close to home.

Suspiria’s greatest feats however might be it’s cinematography and editing. This film is crafted tightly from the perfect cuts during sequences of dance, to the terror inducing lighting and composition. The age of the picture can be felt, filled with texture and purpose, every frame is a literal painting. It might not have the richness of the original but the palette here creates an inescapable mood, which is what we came for. Even the subtitles decide to feel unique in their approach. Visually, Suspiria might not be what the original was, but it manages to be something else entirely and a wonder in it’s own vein.

Finally, a note on the entire soundtrack created by Thom York, which might hold one of the greatest horror scores ever crafted in “Volk”. The aggressive feel of the Goblin soundtrack is gone, as that tone didn’t serve what this version of Suspiria was to come. York’s soundtrack is haunting and at moments down right chilling, but it’s also incredibly beautiful and melodic – not something you expect to hear in a horror film.

Guadagnino wanted to make his movie, and to many disappointed fans looking for a rehash this will be a moment of disappointment. It shouldn’t be however, because what we have here is an exceptionally crafted horror film, and a breath of fresh air in the world of remakes. Guadagnino dares to look an industry in the eye and make this entirely his own, all the while maintaining an intangible respect for the original. This is a film made by a fan, a man who was once transported to a world of blood and terror in his room as a young boy. He’s grown with this film, and with it’s ideas, as did Argento clearly.

It’s 2018 and the word is not “remake”, it’s “reimagine”.  

Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a Toronto based filmmaker and creative mad man. Legend has it that he spent most of his childhood locked away in a cell beta testing Netflix.