Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s horror masterpiece Suspiria finally landed in theaters this week with a limited run. With three years in the making, a two and a half-hour running time, and a big push from Amazon studios for a limited release film, there has been much anticipation surrounding this 2018 adaptation. Was it worth the wait, and does it live up to the hype?
Too many subplots, too few thrills
There are some very good moments in the new Suspiria, but it takes more than moments to make a movie. This movie strives to be everything, but with too many storylines to sift through, it never quite takes off, instead remaining grounded by plotline complexity.
Suspiria has a backstory about the protagonist, a backstory about the professor, a side story about real-life terrorism happening in 1977 Germany, a message about female rebirth, a warning about cults, and Nazis, all of which fail to ultimately tie together into a cogent story. The film Suspiria wants to be could succeed with one theme with a strong, consistent visual style. However this Suspiria is more confusing and grotesque than scary.
Suspiria opens by announcing itself as, “Six Acts and an Epilogue set in divided Berlin,” which could be interpreted as a nod to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Spoiler alert—this movie is not Kill Bill. Telling your audience this is going to be a very long movie, the film had better deliver a strong, scary opening; alas, it’s dreary and lacks consistent tension.
Less scary than cringy
There are many fun references to characters from the original film, but they don’t make much sense, even if you have seen the original Suspiria. The entire first act bleeds pretentiousness in every frame; so shockingly self-aware, it’s cringe worthy. Suspiria borrows a lot of ideas from other, truly brilliant films—Possession, Black Swan, and The Shining for starters—but the borrowed concepts fell flat here because the film lacks something passionate and personal from its director. Auteurs have depth. They know how to capture a theme, use a strong visual language to guide their audience, and have an ability to pull something more from their cast and crew than what they could give alone.
The dance piece the company performs for an audience in the second half of the film has real power, as does the first three minutes of the ritual of the witches toward the end, but the later scene goes on too long. Unfortunately, when bad computer generated imagery gimmicks and an absurd subplot immerge, everything goes downhill. See Suspiria 2018, and then see the original.
Suspiria began a run at The State Theater in November.