dir Luca Guadagnino
scr David Kajganich
prd Luca Guadagnino, David Kajganich, Brad Fischer, Francesco Melzi d'Eril, Marco Morabito, Gabriele Moratti, William Sherak, Silvia Venturini Fendi
with Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Sylvie Testud, Renee Soutendijk, Alek Wek, Elena Fokina, Malgorzata Bela, Jessica Harper, Chloe Grace Moretz
release US 26.Oct.18, UK 16.Nov.18
18/Italy Amazon 2h32
Listen to the voices: Johnson

swinton goth moretz
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Suspiria Luca Guadagnino takes on Dario Argento's bonkers 1977 masterwork and spins it into a politically aware horror epic that's so over-serious that it often forces the viewer to stifle a giggle. It's also darkly creepy, and infused with a bizarre emotionality that never quite makes sense but registers almost subliminally. And the long running-time allows for a seriously extended bloodbath finale.

In 1977 Berlin, Susie (Johnson) arrives to take her place at an all-female dance troupe. The imperious Madame Blanc (Swinton) oversees rehearsals, while dancer Sara (Goth) takes Susie under her wing. Everyone is disturbed about the mysterious disappearance of lead dancer Patricia (Moretz), who fled to Doctor Josef (Lutz Ebersdorf, aka Swinton again) with a story about witchcraft and nastiness under the dancefloor. Failing to get any interest from the police, Josef starts nosing around himself. Meanwhile, Blanc is giving Susie some freaky dreams and whispering to the other matrons about an upcoming ritual.

Guadagnino deploys every element at his disposal to ramp up the atmosphere, with haunting music by Thom Yorke, artfully lurid cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and fever-dream editing by Walter Fasano. Each scene is packed with suggestion, as mirrors reflect seemingly alternate realities (the mirror room is particularly nutty), withered hands caress ceilings and fragments of hushed conversations echo down art deco corridors. The Berlin Wall runs right next to the dance studio, and the weather is relentlessly misty, rainy, snowy.

Within this heightened atmosphere, the actors create believable characters. They're too wide-eyed and intense to be likeable, but they never bore us. Johnson manages to make Susie both naive and a knowing at the same time, leaving us wondering how she might respond to whatever these matrons are planning. As Blanc, Swinton glides as if her feet never touch the ground, engaging in wry, offhanded comments that are as close as the film gets to humour. Her Josef is, by contrast, the film's most moving element.

Horror fans will love the excessive grisliness, including wonderfully effective physical nastiness and bump-in-the-dark tension. And the extended climax brings with it acres of nudity, buckets of blood and plenty of satanic mumbo jumbo. The problem is that the set-up seemed to be raising pungent issues about women, including the intensely physical choreography the troupe is performing. And these interesting ideas, instead of being deepened or upended, are simply thrown aside for something that's almost gleefully grotesque.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, nudity 29.Sep.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall