SUSPIRIA / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: LUCA GUADAGNINO / SCREENPLAY: DAVID KAJGANICH / DAKOTA JOHNSON, TILDE SWINTON, MALGORZATA BELA, ANGELA WINKLER, CHLOË GRACE MORETZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Berlin, 1977. While the German autumn rages, American dancer Susie Bannion (Johnson) auditions to join the prestigious Helena Markos Dance Company. The odds of approval seem stacked against her, especially since the company’s artistic director Madam Blanc (Swinton) is too busy to attend… until something about the energy of Susie’s dancing draws Blanc into the room. Susie is accepted and it doesn’t take long before she is, quite literally, under Madam Blanc’s spell; so under her spell that, when another dancer accuses the teachers of witchcraft and tries to leave the company, Susie’s dancing unconsciously prevents her departure in the grisliest way possible.
Meanwhile, the elderly psychiatrist Josef Klemperer (Swinton again, under lots of makeup) investigates the disappearance of a young patient who also happened to be the company’s star performer. The last time he saw her, she told him the company was a hotbed of witches and she feared for her life.
Susie’s new friend Sara (Mia Goth) – another dancer in the company – is also trying to find out what happened to the missing girl, and she’s growing increasingly uneasy about the bond that’s forming between Susie and Madam Blanc. But what she discovers in the labyrinthine chambers beneath the dance company’s studios is more horrible than she could dare to imagine.
With the blackest of black magics coalescing around them, Susie, Sara, and Klemperer are inexplicably drawn into a brutal and bloody ballet of death that will change each of their destinies forever.
For this reviewer, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria was the best film of 2018. When it was released, it divided audiences. Those of us who loved it really loved it, those who hated it hated it with a passion. The haters are wrong, and I say that as someone who would always blurt out something extremely rude whenever anybody dared to suggest that Argento’s classic should be revisited. After all, you can’t improve upon horror perfection. Except Guadagnino proved you can.
Yes, the new Suspiria doesn’t have the original’s legendary colour palette and fairy tale trappings, nor does it have a soundtrack that’s precision-engineered to send chills up your spine. But what it does have is a grim sense of reality and a fierce intelligence in its writing, directing, performance and design, all underpinned by Thom Yorke’s perfectly pitched musical score. This is a Suspiria that takes its witchcraft seriously, especially where sympathetic magic and the interconnectedness of dance and magical ritual are concerned, and that makes us genuinely intrigued and fearful about the threat the central characters are facing. In total, it’s a mesmerising and visceral cinematic experience.
It would be thrilling to see what Guadagnino could do with the other two entries in Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy, but since Amazon Studios seemed to lose interest in the film even before it was released that seems unlikely to happen. Still, why the UK has had to wait almost a year for this Blu-ray when the US got theirs in January and Germany got a fantastic 4K edition in April is a mystery that only Mother Suspiriorum herself could solve. The good news is that this UK version looks and sounds terrific and, visually, seems marginally better than the US presentation. It would have been nice to get more special features and a 4K alternative, though. But we’re not complaining. Even without high-spec bells and whistles, Suspiria is compellingly potent dark magic and extremely highly recommended.