Suspiria (2018) - Film Review

The, “remake” is a notoriously frustrating part of modern Hollywood. Spicing up horror classics for a modern audience worked for the Blumhouse remake of Halloween to the tune of $157,000,000 (and counting) at the Domestic Box Office, and it will undoubtedly continue as the cravings for nostalgia in entertainment grows. But Suspiria, despite fitting quite a similar mold as Halloween (that of a decidedly modern take on a horror classic) holds it’s own as an effective, intelligent horror film. In fact, Suspiria is a film that really shouldn’t be consumed in comparison to the original—it thrives when watched without that context.

From the start, Suspiria sheds all of it’s remake qualities by introducing new characters, scenes, nuance, and character context that didn’t exist in the original. For the most part, this is all to tremendous aesthetic and narrative effect. These changes to the original narrative make the film itself a more cohesive and effective thematic piece. This, among almost everything else is the beauty of Suspiria as a remake. It’s a film that holds true to the original in theme but goes out of it’s way to sculpt it further, refining the original films theme, to a powerful statement about gender dynamics (and much, much more).

Suspiria gives us a blueprint for exactly what we should expect from remakes. While forging it’s own bold artistic path, Suspiria never takes it’s focus from the intent of the original. In doing so, Gaudagnino shows incredible restraint and respect for Argento while being more than just an overseer of a new script.

Tilda Swinton, who plays a variety of disparate characters in Suspiria is really the rock at the center of the film, despite Dakota Johnson’s effective performance as Susie Bannion. Swinton has this incredible ability to create suspense in a scene with a physical performance—it’s unlike any other current working actor. She’s able to emote expressionistically without abandoning the audience in the drama. These subtle interactions turn towards the horrific, and Swinton is able to deftly dance back and forth. Her performance is echoed in the cinematography, which at times is as evocative as the original film, yet at others is so matter of fact, the audience is forced to internalize these bizarre scenes as, “reality.” The way that the cinematography is mixed like this makes the film emotionally dynamic and rich.

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This deep range of emotion, did not translate as well to the score, composed by Thom Yorke (Radiohead). While there are certainly moments where the score adds nuance to the film, there are times (specifically during the films climax) when it is almost impossible to focus exclusively on the film, as opposed to the score and the visuals/sound as two separate parts. These moments occur not because the individual tracks are bad, but because there doesn’t seem to be a proper focus on the moment.

It would be one thing, if these tracks were written by Thom Yorke, but not so obviously, “Thom Yorke” songs. That is, imagine if during the climax of your favorite film, Brad Pitt just randomly showed up. The scene is then at least partially about, “whoa, that’s Brad Pitt.”  During the opening title scene of Suspiria, these signature, “Thom Yorke” tracks and vocals aren’t as ineffective, but when the tension is ratcheted up so high, and you’re in the moment, the score disappoints by thrusting itself to the center of your consciousness, instead of underlining the moment itself.

Overall, Suspiria is one of the most artistically adept films of the year. Technically, it’s gorgeous and an effective use of both visuals and sound (though, one could say it requires subtitles). Narratively, it’s a wonderful step forward from the original, while still being a thoroughly understated film. That calculated, even-keeled direction is what makes this remake of a horror classic, a veritable classic on its own right.

First Impression: 88
Theater experience was great. Some shocking moments, and consistent performances. Despite the score and the two and a half hour length, it’s a fun watch.

Lasting Impression: 92
Possibly the greatest compliment you can give this film is that it explores so many different sides of the theme the original created. That makes the film open to so much lasting discussion.

Technical Excellence: 88
An absolutely gorgeous film— one of the most effectively graded films of the year. Perhaps could use subtitles, because it would hurt the film to mess with the sound mix.

Coherence: 72
I can see this being a difficult film to follow for some, because I myself had moments where I wasn’t quite sure what was important or not. Some of the plot elements felt extraneous until they came into their own. The length of the film might have something to do with that.

Overall: 85

Bret Hoy is the creator and co-editor of Monolith Medium, an award winning filmmaker, and writer. 

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