Suspiria ★★

Luca Guadagnino's remake/reimagining/"cover version" of Dario Argento's immortal masterpiece is bold, different, and intentionally provocative; it's also overlong, stupid, and sometimes incomprehensible. When I heard of the initial rumblings that they wanted to do a remake of Suspiria, I was honestly kind of revolted; I'm not going to pretend to be unbiased since I consider the original to be the best horror movie ever made and one of my favourite movies period.

I simply can't overstate the influence that it had on my burgeoning cinematic awakening; after having watched it for the first time, I saw that film could be art too, that movies didn't have to make sense or have a defined plot/set of characters to be worthwhile. Argento showed me that story ultimately means very little and that sense could be made out of nonsense if executed the right way. Style could BE the substance if a director could impart their vision clearly, originally, and in a way that spoke to a collective as well as the individual. More than that, it helped me get a better sense of the importance of the director and what style(s) I liked/didn't like. I also learned that I liked my movies stylized, violent, and bloody (but importantly not cruel).

But this isn't going to be the insane ramblings of an Argento fanboy (at least I hope not). Guadagnino's take on the material is so different from the original that it may as well be an original script and because of this, A-B comparisons to the Argento classic are difficult to make, if not outright impossible and pointless. On the one hand this is good because it helps this version stand on it's own without inviting criticism in the myriad of ways that this film pales in comparison to the original. But then it also makes me question why the fuck they slapped the Suspiria name on this in the first place since both of these movies share so little in common. But there's an obvious reason why they chose to call this Suspiria and not just some random movie about witches: branding.

In short, no one would fund this "arthouse indie political horror shock movie" unless we call it a remake; this gives the film a sense of cache, as non-fans would be suckered into seeing a remake of a Giallo classic while fans would be lured in because of their familiarity with the name (they certainly got my money). No one is going to be lining up to see a remake of Urban Legends or some shit but a cult classic? You have a built in audience that you don't even need to sell on the material. Hell, you don't even have to produce anything good; just fill your movie with tons of shocking footage or enough weird/avant-garde/"artful" imagery and bam! Instant remake. Nevermind that this is basically an original story: brand name recognition at least gives the film a better chance of making some return on investment. I know I never would have seen this otherwise. Change a few names, get rid of the Three Mothers lore, maybe change the dance academy setting, and this would never be mistaken for Suspiria.

Because this movie for all intents an purposes is an original work, I thankfully don't have to compare it to the original and eventually came to view this in a vacuum, with no baggage (or at least I tried to). That's probably why it didn't outright piss me off and why I'm being relatively lenient with a rating. This is tedious, pretentious, hipster bullshit of the highest order but also a strangely aesthetically fascinating object. I never hated it even though there were times where I found it to be unpleasant or boring. To be honest I can't muster much of a reaction to it either way. What I do know is that Guadagnino appealed to those arthouse sensibilities which I do not possess and which have nothing to do with paying homage to Argento's original or "honouring" it in some way (whatever the fuck that means). But I'm a waking paradox; I love my arthouse movies as much as my exploitation and standard/classic Hollywood fare. This 2018 iteration is full of style and fully commits to doing whatever the hell it wants to with the skeleton of Argento's story.

But this Suspiria was arthouse in all of those ways which I inherently despise: horrible dialogue delivered with all of the super-serious intonation of actors being desperately told to hold it together, lots of "artistic" flourishes that mix serene/quiet/beautifully composed shots with brutal violence in order to juxtapose and provoke/shock, and just a general directorial pretence that makes it look like our auteur is trying to make a "profound" point at the expense of every other component. In the original Suspiria the story makes no sense and doesn't really work but who gives a fuck? Argento compensates by making one of the most stylish movies ever, full of memorable imagery, a pulsing soundtrack, and brilliant lighting. We're pulled into the nightmarish qualities of the film and not the poor writing. Guadagnino's world here is dreary, cold, and dark; not inherently unappealing prima facie but we've all seen this aesthetic before and there's nothing here that shows to me that Guadagnino does this sort of thing better than anyone else from the past twenty-five years.

Perhaps this film's greatest failings are Guadagnino's attempts to incorporate logic and linear causality into something that was previously perfectly fine without it. Argento's Suspiria is as straightforward a movie as they come and sheer cinematic perfection, a maddening descent into delirium that both confounds and terrifies, where nothing quite adds up and the ever-oppressive mood elevates what is otherwise outright shlock. There's no way that Guadagnino's version could ever hold a candle to it and how could it? This Suspiria wants to try its hand with making political commentary about Germany in the '70's, Germany in the '40's, women's rights, the significance of "mothers", the theatricality of art and its purpose in a chaotic world, and maybe even more. The end result is just a mess and not an entertaining one like Argento's original, but one that's a slog to sit through and even pretentiously divided up into six acts and an epilogue.

I can't say that I went into this with an open mind since I questioned the legitimacy of its very existence before the thing was even made. But I didn't boycott it and gave it as fair a shot as I could. That being said, why in the sweet FUCK would I watch this again when the original exists and does its thing so much better? This is a hollow shell masquerading as something deep and/or "artistic", an unnecessarily prolonged rumination on everything and nothing all at once.

Since I can't really fit this anywhere else, the plot twist was actually pretty unexpected (but roughly just as unnecessary as anything else in the film) and helped to elevate what could have been an even more annoying experience. Thom Yorke's score was fucking garbage and didn't gel with anything happening on screen (it's almost embarrassing comparing this to Goblin's iconic soundtrack). Finally, Dakota Johnson; she very well may be competing with Jennifer Lawrence as my most hated female lead in movies today and even tops Lawrence from a bad acting standpoint. There's nothing in her performance here that convinces me she can act worth a shit and she's really just a lifeless, boring entity on screen. Please stop casting her in things (the same goes with Jennifer Lawrence).

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