At present the horror movie genre has too often become just a bunch of lame remakes and jump scares. That is a real shame for a genre that does have a lot to offer when it’s working correctly. Fortunately, one of the people to tackle this genre most recently happens to be an auteur on the rise in Luca Guadagnino. Guadagnino’s last movie, Call Me By Your Name, was a heavily acclaimed effort that received multiple Oscar nominations so it was a bit of a surprise to see his next movie be Suspiria, a remake of a 1970s Dario Argento horror movie. Sure enough, though, Guadagnino reveals that he is still at the top of his craft and delivers a movie that oozes in style and has faith that its audience is as smart as he is.
Suspiria begins with an old Jewish therapist (played by Tilda Swinton in a cross gender role) as he tries to uncover the disappearance of one of his patients, a dancer played by Chloe Grace Moretz, in West Berlin. At the same time an American dancer (Dakota Johnson) is initiated into the dance academy that the missing dancer belonged to. It is not long before rumors of witches running the dance academy begin to circulate. The movie is structured into five acts and an epilogue, which tells you right off the bat that this movie is going to be a bit unconventional. In fact it’s really hard to pinpoint whom the actual main character of this movie is. The early goings would make you believe it is Dakota Johnson’s Susie but development of her character later in the movie gives her much more of a distant feeling than a normal main character would be. Another dancer (played by Mia Goth), the therapist and the head teacher of the academy (Tilda Swinton) all get some character development but their centrality to the plot comes and goes depending on the point in which the movie is at. So at times this movie does come across as really cold with so very few characters to latch onto. That and a near three-hour runtime will put a lot of people of from this movie.
However, all of this gives the movie a sense of originality that the horror genre has lacked as of late. It also helps that Guadagnino has such faith in his intricate style. The visuals all the way down to the tiniest aspects (whether it’s the use of a particular costume for a character or a red tint to the cinematography that is used in some later scenes) make this one of the most stunning movies to look at this year. It also helps that Guadagnino’s direction and a script from David Kajganich has such faith in its audience. Nothing is ever spelled out. You never have a character telling you what is currently happening or explaining throughout why that character is making such a decision. The movie is all action and it’s up to you to interpret it.
This all leads to an absolutely bonkers final act that takes every expectation you had of this movie and throws it out the window. An M. Night Shymalan level twist is just casually dropped in the middle of it and the movie doesn’t even bat an eyelash at it. It just keeps getting crazier from there. The final act also allows Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton chances to deliver some of their best work yet. Johnson gets to add a bit of stoicism to her performance that I didn’t know she was capable of while Swinton gets to perform three roles at once that (with the exception of one) feel natural when they shouldn’t at all.
Suspiria is an unforgettable bit of fresh air for the horror genre.