Blu-ray: Suspiria (2018)

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Luca Guadagnino | CAST: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Doris Hick, Malgorzata Bela, Chloe Grace Moretz
RELEASE DATE: Jan. 29, 2019 | PRICE: DVD Blu-ray $18.84
SPECS: R | 152 min. | Horror mystery | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall


A kooky, way-over-the-top reworking of Dario Argento’s 1977 much-admired, style-over-suspense shocker, Suspiria comes from Luca Guadagnino, the filmmaker behind last year’s highly praised Call Me By Your Name, which centered on the same-sex relationship between grad student Armie Hammer and teenager Timothee Chalamet in 1980s Italy.

Like that previous film, Suspiria delves deep into forbidden desires and secret trysts, adding dollops of dance, carnage, mystery and history for not-so-good measure.

Unfolding in six acts and an epilogue that clock in at a hefty 152 minutes, the film is set in Berlin in 1977 at the Markos Dance Company, a famous dance conservatory run by Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel), a mysterious doyenne known for staging envelope-pushing works for select students. American Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson, Bad Times at the El Royale) soon arrives, and finds a way into Blanc’s tutorship with an audition that impresses with gravity-defying moves and thrashing sensual grooves.

Behind the walls of the studio, however, ominous things are afoot. First, Madame Blanc and her associates happen to be witches who may have other plans for Susie. Turns out they have cast demonic spells over others in the troupe, including Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz, The 5th Wave), who had attempted to alert a psychiatrist about the witches’ black magic and then paid the consequences.

In addition to the primary Madam Blanc/Susie storyline, we’re privy to other stories spinning around the film’s epicenter—stuff about secret police and the Red Army, kidnappings and another student named Olga (real-life dancer Elena Folkina), who danced herself to death following an argument with Madame Blanc. These may all connect in some way, but it could take hours of thought or discussion to figure out how.

Argento’s original Suspiria—the first in his “Witches Trilogy” which includes Inferno (1980) and Mother of Tears (2007)—is loved by horror enthusiasts for its hallucinatory color scheme, pulsating score by Goblin, and gothic creepiness. Here, filmmaker Guadagnino keeps the look muddy, accenting earthy colors; enlists Radiohead’s Thomas Yorke to compose its classically-tinged spaced-out score; and plays down the suspense in favor of elaborately choreographed gore, dismemberment and otherworldly contortions to pump up the scare factor.

Dakota Johnson, best known for her nude and kinky encounters in the Fifty Shades screen trilogy, proves that she’s up to the dancing tasks but not much more as Guadagino plays down the nudity and kinky eroticism here. It’s Oscar-winner Swinton—the director’s muse-of-sorts who has appeared in three of his previous films—who, not surprisingly, makes the biggest impression(s) here.

Other actors the director chooses for his cast seem to be there for other reasons—meta-reasons. There’s Mia Goth (Everest)—chosen for her last name, perhaps? You can also spot Fassbinder regulars Ingrid Cavan (33 Shots of Rum) and Angela Winkler (Clouds of Sils Maria)—Guadagnino is a big R.W.F. fan—as well as Renee Soutendijk (Spetters), in a part that’s an obvious homage to her role in Paul Verhoeven’s The Fourth Man. Oh, and let’s not forget an appearance by Jessica Harper (Inserts), star of Argento’s original. This all seems like fun but, for the most part, it’s really not.

The new Suspiria is a film whose admiration is clearly divided by age—older audiences who may have seen the original in theaters or even on VHS don’t seem to be all that positive, while a younger generation of Argento admirers have taken a shine to it.  A limited release last Halloween on 400+ screens brought in only $2.5 million, but the familiarity of the title, a high curiosity factor and repeatability for its younger enthusiastic fans will be enough to guarantee healthy ancillary returns.

Buy or Rent Suspiria (2018)
on  Blu-ray

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.