‘Suspiria’ (2018) Blu-Ray Review: A Bloated Yet Intriguing Story About Dancing
Suspiria, directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by David Kajganich, is a horror film that originally released last year. It’s based on a 1977 film of the same name, reusing its framework but handling its elements differently to deliver a distinct experience.
Suspiria is about a dancing school for young women and the conspiracy behind it: a secret society of witches own the establishment and use its students to further their agenda. Our protagonist is Susie, a foreign student studying at the academy initially unaware of its history. Played by Dakota Johnson, Susie progressively advances in the student hierarchy whilst hints imply there’s more to her than meets the eye. Johnson plays opposite Tilda Swinton, who portrays three characters but whose most significant role is that of Madame Blanc, the dance instructor. Blanc and Susie grow close as the film continues, owing to the witches’ interest in appropriating the girl’s body as a new vessel for their alleged matriarch, Markos (Swinton). Suspiria‘s cast performed an admirable job as a whole, with Swinton’s performance as Blanc as the standout.
Guadagnino’s arthouse project has a 2:32-hour runtime and it doesn’t manage it well; certain scenes are needlessly drawn out, consequently preventing the film from sufficiently building the foreboding sense of dread it requires. As such, gore is left as the primary source through which Suspiria tries to derive its scares from. An early example of this would be the pythonesses’ treatment of Olga (Elena Fokina), a disillusioned pupil who accused them of witchcraft. During these two tone-defining scenes, she’s laughed at, her body brutally contorts into disfigurement, and she’s later stabbed and dragged away with blood trailing behind her. Guadagnino also tries to channel the scenic fast cuts of The Ring‘s iconic video tape through nightmares Blanc projects into Susie, but the results are less successful.
Suspiria, however, benefis from its cinematography (Damien Jalet’s dance choreography is on point), Thom Yorke’s haunting score, and because of the material it tries to utilize. Suspiria’s most prominent themes are motherhood, guilt and power — the Lovecraftian climax and Susie’s subsequent consoling of holocaust survivor Dr. Josef Klemperer (Swinton) push both to the forefront rather bluntly – but none of them are as thoroughly explored as they could have been. Suspiria is also underscored by its backdrop, West Berlin circa 1977. The setting informs the narrative, tying the coven’s operations in with real world events while also fighting against the sorceresses for screen time. Ultimately, Suspiria isn’t scary, it’s bloated and some of its facets are underdeveloped. It’s nevertheless an interesting film worth watching.
Three short yet illuminating Blu-ray features discuss the process behind realizing Guadagnino’s vision for his take on Suspiria. All components concerning the film’s creation, from casting to the decision to use a muted color palette, are touched upon. A few trailers for some of Amazon Studios’ other films are included as well.