Suspiria (2018) Review
I feel like Suspiria (2018) was made with me – and other camp-loving, fashion-obsessed horror junkies – in mind.
Here is a movie woven together from a story about a coven of dancing witches, themes of femininity and power, grotesque visuals, iconic actors and the chicest fashions moments to ever grace a horror film. Seriously, what’s not to love?
As a huge fan of Dario Argento’s work and the 1977 version of Suspiria, initially I was a bit turned off by the thought of someone remaking such a classic film. But, wow, am I sure glad I got over that! Director of the 2018 version, Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), created a truly mesmerizing film – that can stand on its own. I don’t feel like it was trying to compete with the original. And I’m not even sure it’s really fair to deem it a remake. It’s a story reimagined. It’s presented as a sort of fever dream, or nightmare that you would have had after watching the original. “Suspiria is what a remake should be—a reinvention of themes, not a slavish recreation of what’s already been done,” said editor Angela Watercutter in a 2018 article for Wired.
Similar to Argento’s version, Suspiria (2018) follows a young woman from America, Suzy, who moves to Germany to attend a prestigious dance school, which turns out to be run by witches. Some of the dance students begin to mysteriously disappear and many of the characters encounter disturbing visions and haunting occurrences. But, Guadagnino dares for us to dive deeper. His version plays out more like a psychological spiral into madness, rather than Argento’s horror mystery – common for the giallo genre.
Suspiria (2018) makes prominent note of the setting, a post-WWII Germany in a political upheaval, offering the story an already unsettling base to build on. And we see the addition of the subplot where Dr. Klemperer, one of the student’s psychotherapist, starts to investigate the dance school after said student goes missing.
Although Guadagnino’s Suspiria is much longer that the 1977 version, and moves about the plot in a slower manner, it makes up for it with visuals and shock value. It is just drenched in beautifully exaggerated visuals, and is just as equally haunting. The shocking scene in which one of the students is magically twisted and thrashed about a dance studio is one of the most horrifying visuals I have ever seen. I couldn’t help but be impressed. Not to mention the incredible ending – one of surprise and absolute horror – and yet the theme of feminine power has you cheering. Similar to the feeling evoked during the ending of Midsommar. Maybe we’re starting to see a new take on the “final girl” trope?
The cast is incredible and undeniably stylish. Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Goth, Alek Wek, Queen Jessica Harper, and the enigma that is Goddess Tilda Swinton – all recognized as fashion icons – spin an extra ounce of chicness into the film.
And speaking of chicness, the costumes are out of this world. Designer Giulia Piersanti’s work on this film blew me away. It’s impossible not to notice how fashionable the film is. From the vintage 70’s plaid outfit Goth’s character wears to lunch, the incredible black kaftan Swinton’s character is draped in as she eats chicken wings in her bedroom (which is the fucking mood of the century), the costumes during the dancers’ performance of Volk, Madame Blanc’s vibrant red dress, the outfits made of human hair… All the costumes are just so incredibly cool.
For me, films and television are my magazines. Don’t get me wrong. I love thumbing through magazines and looking at spreads for outfit inspo. But, personally, I find myself and my wardrobe more often inspired by movies. When the costumes of a film speak to me – I instantly start building outfits in my mind. Suspiria certainly did that for me. As I type this review while sporting my new black kaftan. Like, actually.
I think one of my personal goals for my #Frightday series is to investigate this relationship between horror and fashion. Through my monthly posts I want to eventually uncover or at least define the way myself and many others correlate fashion and style with horror films – in a way unlike any other film genre. Is it simply horror’s openness to the unusual and interesting, or willingness to incorporate a level of camp that doesn’t make sense elsewhere? Or is it something more?
After first seeing Guadagnino’s Suspiria, I instantly fell in love. I couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks. Months later, I still can’t stop talking about it. I even still find myself quoting it: “Higher!” Do you mean fuck a man? “No. I was thinking of an animal.” Mother, we're so tired. “What do you ask?” It’s pure genius. It’s art.
And I feel so validated because I’m certainly not alone. Even though we didn’t see Suspiria (2018) win an Oscar, or murder the box office, the film has become an instant cult classic. Nearly a year later, and we still see a number of Tumblr blogs, Reddit pages and Instagram accounts dedicated to Suspiria and our leading lady Suzy (played by Dakota Johnson). And despite it being such a recent release, IndieWire has already ranked the film on its list of the 100 greatest horror movies of all time. Even more exciting is seeing fashion brand Undercover’s Fall 2019 collection which was inspired by the film and includes coats, skirts, and dresses with some of the most iconic images from the film printed on them. My birthday is a few weeks away… If you’re wondering what to get me… *cough* *cough*
All the gushing aside, this film is probably not for everyone though – whether it be because of its immoderate or artistic approach to storytelling, the gore, the unsettling and nightmarish scenes, or just the fact that it’s super weird (I say that in the most utterly loving way). In fact, I believe it’s one of those films you either really love or really hate. There’s no in between. In a way, the movie feels like a secret club or maybe an inside joke, you either just get it or you don’t. And obviously, anyone expecting a copy of Argento’s original film will feel disappointed after. It’s important to see it as an homage to Argento and not a recreation.
#FrightDay Rating: 4 ½ out of 5
Suspiria is now included in your Prime membership. If you’re an Amazon Prime member watch Suspiria, an Amazon Original, for free by clicking here.