It’s been almost a full week since I’ve seen Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria at Fantastic Fest, and I’m still thinking and rethinking and contemplating and dissecting and wanting to watch it again SO BAD it almost hurts.
Before you ask (as many men I ran into did, after I told them how much I LOVED this version): Yes, I have seen the original. Several times. It’s one of my favorite films. I heart the crap out of most of Dario Argento’s work, and his Suspiria is amazing; it’s a masterpiece of color and sound and gore. This — this is something wholly and completely different.
Screenwriter David Kajganich took the seeds of Argento & Nicolodi’s story and blew it up into a gloriously huge tree with branches that tangle and overlap and touch a hundred different points of origin, with Guadagnino framing every goddamn scene perfectly.
This vision of of Suspiria is set in 1977, in Berlin and begins with the disheveled Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) arriving at the office of Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton). Patricia is muttering about dreams and promises, and keeps repeating that someone is trying to “get inside of her.” The Doctor nods and takes notes, but ultimately decides she’s delusional. The spooked Patricia eventually runs off into the night, leaving behind notebooks full of rambling theories about three mothers and a secret coven.
Meanwhile, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives at the world famous Markos Dance Academy to audition. It’s clear Susie is running away from her oppressive life on a Mennonite farm straight into the motherly kindness of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton, again): the director of the Academy and the subject of Susie’s obsession (I don’t blame her; I would absolutely join ANY coven Tilda Swinton asked me to. No questions asked).
Susie delivers a perfect audition and is immediately accepted in because, luckily (?!) there’s an open spot left there by the recently departed Patricia. As Susie gets drawn deeper and deeper into the company and the coven starts to reveal their plans for her (hint: it’s not just to be the star of their new performance), Dr. Klemperer reads through Patricia’s journals and contacts another dancer, Sara. Together, they start to uncover the labyrinth of terrifying secrets within the Academy.
Guadagnino’s Suspiria unfolds in six acts with a beautifully perfect score by Thom Yorke; each act ramping up the intensity and suspense until the final, brutally insane and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a good reboot/remake/homage/whatever you wanna call it:
It’s a vision of women working together to smash the patriarchy.
It’s a story about regret and guilt and how those things can drag you down for life.
It’s a cautionary tale about how lust for power can ruin you, and everyone in your path.
It’s a fever dream of hallucinations and incredibly unsettling gore.
It’s an irresistible fucking spell and I can’t wait for everyone to be able to see it.
The Mother of Sighs is coming, and she will take your heart and soul with her.