By Andrew Breazeale, Contributor
[Amazon Studios; 2018]
Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria is a disorienting, hypnotic and precise mix of horror and dance. The story centers on a dance academy in Berlin in 1977 that doubles as a home for a coven of witches who cast magic through dance. We follow the stories of a young American dancer named Susie (Dakota Johnson), an escapee from the academy named Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Patricia’s therapist Josef (Tilda Swinton). As Susie enters the academy and the three stories begin to wind together, it becomes clear that Susie is meant for a much darker fate than she ever dreamed.
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As we are sent spinning into the world of Suspiria, we are constantly reminded of the horrors that hide in the academy because of a masterfully crafted soundtrack by Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The music effortlessly blends into the film, slinking around in the background until it is thrust onto us at pivotal moments. The discordant sounds create a permeating sense of unease that lingers through the entire movie, heightened by intensely graphic scenes of witchcraft and death. But the music doesn’t just fit the film; it also brings a sense of the time period with it, incorporating different styles of music to create one brilliantly-unified score.
What makes this movie so stunning, besides its incredible soundtrack, is the setting of 1977 Berlin. The bleak grays and blues of the architecture assault you with plainness, creating uneasiness and hypnotically fixing your eyes to the screen. This is further emphasized by the film’s gorgeous cinematography, which is made up of uncomfortable wide shots at critical moments, shaky camera zooming and decisive shots at unusual angles. Although the entire film feels precise and specific, the cinematography serves to take that precision and turn it against us, creating an unnatural and unsettling feeling that removes all sense of well-being from the movie. This, among other things, is something that was never dramatized in the original 1977 movie. Although the cinematography is reminiscent of the original, the intensity and power that it holds over the new movie make it much more unsettling. In a similar vein, the original movie is iconically known for its abundant use of primary colors – almost the direct opposite of the palette used for the remake. These factors create the realization that this new version of Suspiria may not be a remake, but a reimagining.
Throughout this reimagining, we are bombarded with haunting visuals, hypnotizing dance numbers, and a crippling sense of uneasiness that stays with you for days after. We are left horrified and awe-struck at the piece of art that we just witnessed, ready to see more, but scared to ask for it. A grotesque, elegant, horrific, powerful masterpiece, Luca Guadagnino’s version of this old classic movie is a stand out of the horror genre.
Watch the trailer here: