‘Do you know anything about… witches?’ In 1977, a film laid its spellbinding curse on horror in a psychedelic foray of progressive rock, violent colour and a flood of fluorescent blood. That film was Dario Argento’s giallo masterpiece Suspiria; an unshakable expressive nightmare which still haunts in excess of forty years from its release. As we remain tangled in its barbed wire pit, 2018 sees the directoress rearing her ugly head from behind the sheet once again in the form of a more understated, but no less abrasive, re-imagining which hopes to have us hanging, broken and bleeding, from its stained glass ceiling.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino, 2018’s Suspiria arguably couldn’t want for a better suitor. Off the back of two respective successes in the dramatically dense romantic thriller A Bigger Splash and sun-drenched beauty Call Me By Your Name, Guadagnino has the chance to demonstrate his versatility in the trade off from Mediterranean marvels to the cold corridors of Suspiria’s Berlin dance academy.
But, he isn’t without great company. Suspiria will see Radiohead’s Thom Yorke follow in bandmate Johnny Greenwood’s footsteps with his first film soundtrack. However, Yorke arguably has bigger shoes to fill than his. Goblin’s original soundscape for Argento’s film offered one of the most audacious and intense horror soundtracks composed for the genre and Yorke has wisely taken a different route with a more quietly unsettling tone. It is already proving a master work in its own right, the release of the film’s title track ‘Suspirium’ alone evokes the sinister yet ethereal ballet at the heart of the film.
As an audio-visual marriage, Yorke’s melancholic tone balances perfectly with the images we’ve seen so far. Those images are in the more than capable hands of Sayombhu Mukdeeprom who has already captured the eerie other-worldliness needed for Suspiria in the haunting Thai masterpiece Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and shown a deft talent for pure aesthetic brilliance with Guadagnino in Call Me By Your Name last year. The two elements appear to make for a dynamic blend. The walls visibly crawl with desperate paranoia while the vibrancy of the original is traded for a bleak yet slightly heightened realism that still allows the colour to pop; here deep red is made far deeper and the fiery tones of Dakota Johnson’s Susie Bannion leave her aptly out of place among her greyer surroundings.
Johnson makes for ideal casting for the same reason; posing enough talent and magnetism to hold our gaze beneath the front of a vulnerable and timid face, her Susie already appears to match Jessica Harper’s original wallflower. She isn’t the only one hiding either. The ever quietly sublime Tilda Swinton plays both the imposing Madame Blanc and Dr. Josef Klemperer in her most trans-formative and gender fluid roles since Orlando. If that doesn’t do it, then they have plenty of high-calibre back-up in the shape of a now significantly experienced Chloё Grace Moretz as well as the beautiful yet haunting presence of Mia Goth, making for a cast leagues above traditional horror remake fare.
With such talent in front of the camera and artistry behind it, Suspiria is an irresistible horror event. Screams have echoed out from Venice and Toronto throughout the summer with some bellowing its praises as a classier improvement on the original, drawing staggering comparisons to the likes of The Shining, and it is hard to argue that it isn’t capable of such heights. So, as Suspiria prepares to dance its dance for a second time, we can only hope that it is as bewitching as it was the first time around. In the words of Madame Blanc, ‘when you dance the dance of another, you make yourself in the image of its creator;’ for now we can only but hope that this may be true.
Suspiria (2018), directed by Luca Guadagnino, will be released in the UK on November 16th, 2018.