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Review: Suspiria (2018)

Suspiria (2018)
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PLOT: There is a dark magic that takes hold of the famed Markos Dance Academy. And when a young American dancer arrives, evil begins to cast its spell as she finds herself seduced by what hides deep inside its walls.

REVIEW: Cinema can bring many things to an audience willing to take the trip. It can offer an engaging love story, a powerful drama or even a fun action flick that allows you to just take it all in and not think too much. And then there is the current trend of what you could call “art house horror.” Whether it is the dark and disturbing family history of HEREDITARY, or the strangely alluring - if slightly frustrating - connection to creation with the utterly bonkers MOTHER!, there is a new wave of genre that has been searing itself into the mainstream. This week finds the remake of Dario Argento’s wickedly gory tale of witches at a dance academy called SUSPIRIA. Unlike most remakes, the Luca Guadagnino take is a completely different animal, yet it remains in the realm of what Argento and Daria Nicolodi created back in 1977.

Suspicion falls on a famed, yet mysterious dance academy after a young student named Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) disappears. Things spiral further into darkness when a young American arrives for training. For Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), the opportunity to train with the legendary Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton in one of three roles) is a dream come true. However, as Susie falls under the spell of her teachers, her friend Sara (Mia Goth) begins to fear that the rumors of witchcraft and the supernatural are in fact true. Soon, Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton) - a psychiatric doctor who was treating Patricia - begins to look into the strange goings on and the secrets hidden in the hallowed walls of the Markos Dance Academy.

sospirai luca guadagnino tilda swinton dakota johnson mia goth horror remake dario argentoGuadagnino has taken a unique approach to the material. Instead of simply trying to recreate the magnificent colors and wildly bombastic score, he has crafted what could be called an alternate universe to the first. Like John Carpenter’s THE THING or even David Cronenberg’s THE FLY, the filmmaker manages to create something new out of what we already know. His version is also set in 1977, and it adds a volatile political element to the proceedings. This helps, especially when it comes to the disappearance of Patricia. One scene involving a couple of detectives sent to the school to investigate the disturbance is awkwardly uncomfortable for probably most guys sitting in the audience, yet it adds a level of cruel fun to the spooky magic that permeates throughout.

With a two and a half hour runtime, the film places a large emphasis on one thing that was only lightly touched upon in the first film. This time, the dance is just as important to Susie and her relationship to Madame Blanc as well as the twisted witchery that takes place. Choreographed by Damien Jalet, the movement and the dance is absolutely gorgeous, yet nightmarish in its imagery as well. One scene involving a disgruntled student is nearly painful to watch, yet you cannot take your eyes off of it.

sospirai luca guadagnino tilda swinton dakota johnson dario argento remake horror 2018The look of the film is about as far from the first as you can get. In fact, the muted colors and the cold visuals on display with the camera work make this period piece appear to be something that may have been discovered in a time capsule. As well, the effects appear to be practical based, and let’s just say that watching Ms. Swinton take on the role of an old man with a full prosthetic body suit is one that should earn the film an Academy Award nomination at the very least. This is not just a story set in another time, it feels like a story that existed decades ago only to be revealed to modern audiences today.

The performances are all quite good, but it is hard to look past the stunning Tilda Swinton. By playing three roles, this extraordinary talent embraces every element of each character. While she is effortlessly effective as Helena Markos, it is her take on both Madame Blanc and especially Dr. Josef Klemperer that raises the bar. It’s a shame that the secret of this performance wasn’t kept hidden because it was wonderful to see her completely disappear underneath the prosthetics as a frail old man searching for the truth. Her work her is astounding.

sospirai luca guadagnino tilda swinton dakota johnson horror dario argento remake 2018While Dakota Johnson is quite satisfying fulfilling the role of Susie (originally played by the lovely Jessica Harper, who is also cast here in a supporting role), it is a very different take on the character. In many ways it is Mia Goth’s Sara who we as an audience connect with. Ms. Goth is terrific as a well meaning fellow dancer who begins to suspect that there is evil housed in the academy’s walls. Add to that a bevy of talented actresses including Angela Winkler, Sylvie Testud, Fabrizia Sacchi and Renée Soutendijk, and you have an incredible cast of women embracing this tale of witchcraft.

SUSPIRIA is a masterpiece. However, it is a divisive one. Many will find it too slow, and others may not fall under its disturbed spell. As much as it affected this viewer, there is no question that the deliberate pace and bizarre finale will frustrate, bore and annoy some in attendance. Others will be instantly drawn into the experience. It a dreamy mix of grotesque imagery, beauty, shock and horror, with a haunting score from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. This is not an easy watch and certainly not for everyone. Yet at its core, it is a rewarding experience for those willing to take the journey. While I’d be hesitant to call this a horror film as opposed to a dark and wicked fantasy, it may very well be just as unforgettable as it was the first time around.

Source: JoBlo.com

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