LFF review: ‘Suspiria’ is brilliant... until it gets weird
16 October 2018 14:48
Going into the screening of Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria, I wasn’t expecting to be treat to a fantastically frightening horror film. Early reviews had already branded it as meh on the terror front and, as a 90s baby accustomed to state-of-the-art CGI special effects, the ketchup splattered original didn’t do much for me either. That said, I’m now certain that a half-decapitated Tilda Swinton will be appearing in my dreams tonight. I just can’t work out whether I’ll be terrified or really bloody confused when Guadagino’s answer to Harry Potter’s Nearly Headless Nick interrupts my sleep at 4am.
It starts off strong and the plot isn’t too dissimilar from the original, only more in-depth. Rather than being killed off early, Guadagino lingers on the character of Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) a little longer to set the scene: soaking wet and apparently deranged, she flits between German and English to ramble to her psychiatrist Dr. Jozef Klemperer – one of three characters played by Tilda Swinton – occasionally picking up objects and slamming them back down, before running away. She’s convinced that the dance company, Tanz Dance Academy, she’s escaped from is run by a coven of witches, but Klemperer has a different diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Dakota Johnson’s Susie arrives at the same dance school, ready to become the star pupil and get the lead role in Tanz’s performance piece Volk. If Susie had barged into my teenage dance classes and miraculously become a protégée so quickly, I would have undoubtedly hated her, but the other girls don’t seem to be that bothered by her arrival – until they’re later mutilated in the various bizarre, witchy rituals she becomes embroiled in, that is.
To be honest, the first half of the film is brilliant. Of course, following suit from Guadagino’s Call Me By Your Name last year, each scene is beautifully shot, and the horror elements before the plot’s climax are masterfully eerie. Whispers and breathy panting vibrating through walls, paired with spontaneous acts of violence that reap revoltingly gory results, kept me holding my breath with nervous delight throughout most of it. But then it just got weird.
Without giving too much away, the grand finale (which went on for far too long) seemed to simply serve as an opportunity to layer as many prosthetics as possible on Tilda Swinton, while blowing whatever remained of the film’s budget on as much fake blood as Guadagino could get his hands on. I know there’s probably a very laboured feminist reading in there somewhere – perhaps something about menstruation and female sexuality, or maybe it’s in reference to how women who dared hang out together without men back in the 1600s would often be accused of being witches – but, unfortunately, it just fell a little flat.
I ended up leaving the theatre with a furrowed brow and only one thought in my head: ‘what the fuck did I just watch?’ I’ve tried to unravel the bloody aftermath of the final scenes in my head, so that I can attempt to write a very intelligent review. But here we are, almost at the end of my review, and that one thought persists. I’d probably watch it a few times again though – ideally with friends, so I can sit and observe their confusion unfold too.