As a fan of most of Dario Argento’s work, it should be no surprise that Suspiria happens to be one of my favorite films. Naturally I was as excited as any other horror fan to see Luca Guadagnino’s remake which features an incredible cast including Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz. I saw the movie opening night at Baxter Avenue Theater which happened to be this past Friday; coincidentally, my friend Shane Wesley (from Anwar Sadat) was at the same showing, so I figured it’d be fun to put together a quick convo about the flick, which since it’s theatrical release has become very, very polarizing. People seem to love it, or they fucking hate it.
Read on as we give a few quick opinions and ask each other a few questions about Suspiria 2018 and how it compares to Suspiria 1977.
WARNING: Light spoilers ahead! Don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know anything about the film!!!!!!
Phil: Right off the bat, I gotta ask: did you like this movie?
Shane: Without a doubt, I fucking loved this movie — but I can totally see how a lot of people wouldn’t. The reviews I’ve read seem to be fairly polarized. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous and I loved the nearly all-female cast. The pacing, tension, cinematography, soundtrack — it was superb.
Phil: I agree with everything you said except for the pacing. I thought the movie, which clocks in at 2 hours, 32 minutes was way too long. Did you find the tidal wave of new elements introduced to the plot to be overwhelming or too much? Admittedly, I was lost at times because of the several layered plot lines and confusing motivations.
Shane: Not particularly. If anything, the political turmoil in the time of Baader Meinhof in Germany very much mirrors a lot of what we’re going through today. It also highlighted the outrageousness of what the dance company was choosing to perform in those tumultuous times. The struggle against fascism and the fight for women’s rights that has been going on for generations; it really showed how strong and fierce these women were, and despite the coven’s moral bankruptcy, it made me root for them in a sense. What about the plot lines confused you?
Phil: It’s tough for me and my A.D.D. to stay fully invested and attentive for two and half hours to any movie, and this flick wasn’t doing me any favors as it bounced from German to English mid conversation several times. The original Suspiria had a plot that was pretty simple and easy to follow — an American girl ends up in a dance school ran by witches. What made Argento’s foray into witchcraft so fucking awesome (to me) was more driven by mood and atmosphere rather than a complex narrative. At times I feel the new film had a few too many additions to the plot making the movie way, way too long.
Shane: I can totally see that. It was definitely not what most people were probably expecting from it, and it didn’t make it easy on the audience. But that’s kinda what I enjoyed about it too, ’cause it warrants repeated viewings.
Phil: Was there a particular scene that stuck with you more than others? For me it’s the fucking crazy-as-shit ending (not the epilogue).
Shane: Well, the ending was absolutely batshit, and appealed to the cinematic gore-hound part of me. But I think the scene that stuck to me the most was when the main protagonist snuck into that room to find members of the dance company emasculating a spellbound male security guard. There was something so empowering about that scene for me.
Phil: How would you say Suspiria 2018 compares to the original?
Shane: I think it’s really hard to compare the two, to be honest. They’re both very different in terms of aesthetic. The original was incredibly psychedelic and used bright, chromatic colors and was gleefully over-the-top, whereas the remake has a palette of washed out pastels and is shrouded in darkness, and is more subtle in its pacing and intent. I love them both, and I can’t wait to see it again. I mean, what do you think?
Phil: I agree in that they are very, very different, and while I prefer the original, it’s unfair to be too critical or dismissive considering I’ve seen Argento’s Suspiria 50 times while I’ve only seen Guadagnino’s once. The 2018 film begs to be seen multiple times… shit, I’d say it’s fundamentally required to see this multiple times to fully understand what the fuck is going on. But that’s just me, maybe. I can be a bit dense when it comes to elevated horror like this, so I was admittedly often lost or confused on what the fuck was going on, and what shit is supposed to mean.
Having said that, the movie was a viscerally entertaining experience with elements that should please fans of elevated horror, gore hounds, and witches in general. I’d also say that Kubrick fans will get a kick out of this movie as every frame of every scene is highly symmetrical, oozing with style and substance. If anything, this is a fucking beautiful movie to look at, no doubt about it.
The original Suspiria is my favorite witch/coven film — that and the 1960 black and white flick The City of the Dead (Christopher Lee is the leader of a deceptive coven and it rules!). Where does this stack up with those two movies? As of right now, I’d say it’s inferior, but when the remake is released on Blu Ray and I get to fully digest it’s spicy craziness, maybe it’ll grow on me.