At the time of writing this article Halloween has made over $106 million dollars in Box Office sales and taken the second-best ever opening weekend of October and has become the best-ever film starring a lead actress over 55 years old.
It’s director David Gordon Green must be riding an all-time high at the moment, which is interesting as he was the original choice to direct the Suspiria remake which would have starred Isabelle Huppert, but due to a confliction of interests this vision fell through.
One can only wonder how his operatic nod to Dario Argento’s classic would have looked like. Instead Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who turned heads last year with his film Call Me By Your Name, picked up the mantle and collaborated once more with actress Tilda Swinton with his homage.
Now, a lot of people would have balked at the very idea of someone attempting to recreate a much-loved horror film, especially as Suspiria was so unique in style and content.
And yet, it’s because of this that you could argue that there is room to revisit the storyline and create something different for a new generation.
And with the trailer’s release earlier in the year, you could tell that Guadagnino was aiming to do jus that and develop a movie with the look and feel of it’s time and setting, 1977, Berlin.
It’s a fascinating time in German history as it was going through a huge discord and anarchy through political unrest, driving far-left militant organization, Red Army Faction (RAF) also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group to drastic measure involving bombing, kidnapping, and assassinations.
The climate was ripe for a dark evil to erupt, and in this instance it resides with a coven of witches in The Markos Dance Company, which too was going through a split faction between Helena Markos, the self-proclaimed Mother of Sighs and the company director, Madame Blanc, (both played by Swinton).
The story evolves through a series of Acts that opens with an unhinged Patricia Hingle (Chloe Grace Moretz) discloses to her psychiatrist Jozef Klemperer (another Swinton performance as the elderly Gent, a performance that sometimes amazes in just how powerful an actress she is, but on occasion distracts through the times that her character slips a little) about the secret sect.
Hingle quickly disappears from the scene, allegedly involved with the RAF movement. This opens the door for when our story truly begins, when American, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives at the dance company and quickly rises as Blanc’s protégé.
All the while, the dancers are unaware of what truly lurks behind the mirrored walls and beneath the dance floor and Professor Klemperer continues on his quest to find the missing Hingle (an effort that masks his own failings in never finding his wife during the outbreak of the second world war).
There are so many layers to this film that it’s easy to get lost in the narrative and fall under the spell that is cast with powerful performances from all the actors driving you deeper into the world as you spiral into the hypnosis.
This is strengthened further by the musical score supplied Thom Yorke, something of a masterpiece in his delivery and trance-like songs that perfectly accompany the atmosphere and direction of the movie.
Equally effective are the dance pieces that closely pull from the Martha Graham technique, using a psychoanalytical viewpoint on the medium depicting human struggles through every contorted and distorted action from the performer.
It’s a perfect accompaniment to the films narrative and proves a central tool to evoke the darkness beyond the known world.
American writer David Kajganich who wrote the screenplay for Suspiria openly admits that he is not a fan of horror movies and prefers to keep the drama grounded in reality. It’s a curious choice to take for a horror film, but one that speaks volumes to the final product on show.
There are some great moments in the movie that drive the drama forward in a fairly slow pace towards a fevered conclusion.
One moment that I found compelling was when the coven congregates around the dining table, providing small talk, but in the same instance offer a small window into their world and the synergy between them all.
The problem is the choice taken pulls as far from a horror as you could get with the exception of an absolutely phenomenal sequence when one of the dancers, Olga has her body twisted and contorted in a gruesome fashion that is so relentless on the screen, that you can’t help but squirm in your seat.
The timing of this delivery is hopeful too and leads you on a hopeful journey that the movie is going to go dark and harrowing, but it never comes.
By the time the finale arises, the left-of-centre change in direction is a little jarring and feels remiss and leaves any horror fan wanting.
It’s a slow-burn movie that grinds its way to a stumbled conclusion.
The drama is gritty and realistic with some stunning performances and dramatic dance sequences that hook you in, but rather than set you ablaze in a fury of emotion, it peeters out to a mere whimper.
– Saul Muerte