November 26, 2018

GENRE | 'Suspiria' Leaves A Trail x Rio Grind

"Six acts and an epilogue set in divided Berlin."
Dakota Johnson Luca Guadagnino | Suspiria 2018

Arthouse filmmaker Luca Guadagnino brings his ambitious sense of intimate storytelling to loosely remake Daria Argento's Italian supernatural neo-horror cult classic. The new Suspiria film shares only the original's basic premise of dance and witchcraft serving as more of an inspiration to reimagine common themes then twist its characters into heightened situations of melodramatic terror.

Set during the violent German Autumn of 1977—the year the original film was released—in a still divided West Berlin, Dakota Johnson stars very ably as wide-eyed Ohian dance student Susie Bannion who's led afoul when her prestigious but mysterious dance academy turns into a secret coven of witches. Johnson feels once again like an ideal young female vessel for this darkly layered material expressing the evil psychologies of human nature.

Written by regular Guadagnino collaborator David Kajganich, the film's script, structured in six acts, departs from its neo-Italian roots to mute the horror with more subdued yet equally haunting imagery of morbidly lurid acts echoing conceptions of female power and motherhood. Complemented by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's richly realized yet softly greyed-out palette, its dark undertones are underscored by its visually arresting makeup of demure tones.

A stoic Tilda Swinton, in a trio of roles including that of dance instructor Madame Blanc, faces off against Johnson in restrained but eerie performance. What Blanc is grooming Susie for and the clear mystery around the school's true supernatural motives unfold unsurprisingly rather dramatically including some truly hypnotic dance choreography that's flawlessly edited together.

Dakota Johnson Tilda Swinton Luca Guadagnino | Suspiria 2018

Around the pair, Mia Goth, Chloƫ Grace Moretz, and original heroine Jessica Harper surround Johnson and Swinton as other agents of force in this strange world with some equally compelling dramatic female energy making the remake such a fierce portrait of character peril.

Where Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's spooky musical score comes in is through its shift to muted intimacy. His composed music layers the film's consistent aesthetic of oddly welcoming dread through eerily sounding whispers of dreamily realized musical notes.

The new Suspiria is a haunting, divisive feature full of obsessively uneasy cinematic touches. It's a rapturous experience of coldly executed but stylishly grim violence. Guadagnino's reimagining transforms splashy lurid horror into a more unconventional sense of high art with his restrained style of political melodrama.

Suspiria screens as part of the 2018 Rio Grind Film Festival at the Rio Theatre.

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