Luca Guadagnino’s reimagining of Dario Argento’s classic horror Suspiria is languorous and muted, and fails to find its true rhythm
More of a respectful homage to its predecessor than an overt remake, Luca Guadagnino’s take on Dario Argento’s hyper-stylised horror Suspiria once more introduces prodigy Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) to the famed Berlin dance academy with a heart of darkness. Mesmerising choreography and an enticing score from Thom Yorke are clear highlights, but the film’s potency begins to drain over its lengthy runtime.
Where Argento’s film was loud, brash, and a tightly wrapped 98 minutes, Guadagnino’s version is languorous and muted, with muddled plot lines and a very open approach to the coven of horror that the original film kept a little more secretive. There are subtle and tasteful nods to Argento’s Suspiria rather than direct mimicry, from the prisms of neon light that dance across Susie’s walls in her dreams to the elegant floral robe Sara (the excellent Mia Goth) often wears, reminiscent of the lavish murals and wallpaper of the 1977 film. The rest of Guadagnino’s work is notably flesh-toned, an intriguingly understated colour palette that allows for a more residual disquiet rather than flashes of bright terror.
There is a clear artistry on display, with a stunningly intricate look at the virtuosity and intensity of bodily movement and the erotics of sighs and breaths. The story and its terror are explicitly feminine here, a breaking apart of repressed powers and emotions with some splendidly grotesque consequences. It is simply a shame that the tangential threads of narrative concerning psychologist Dr Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton in prosthetics), and ongoing trouble in Berlin with the Baader-Meinhof gang, are a little stifling and overly long.
Suspiria remains a stylised horror, with the new director’s own flourishes and distinct approach to storytelling, but while the Markos academy dancers move their sharp, neat limbs with cutting precision, the film itself feels laborious in places. Oversaturated and lacking agility, Guadagnino’s work doesn’t quite find its true rhythm.
Suspiria is released 16 Nov by MUBI
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