Unless you prefer your horror movies deeply creepy, moody, troubling, outrageously violent and super arty, run—don’t walk—from any theater showing Suspiria. Weighing in at 2 hours and 32 minutes, the movie is a reimagining of giallo maestro Dario Argento’s stylish, utterly gaga 1977 supernatural movie—one with eye-searing color and a gripping musical score that throbs in your head long after the fade-out.
The Madame displays an authoritarian manner, gliding walk and reassuring/threatening demeanor that recall Judith Anderson as the troubled, unhinged housekeeper in Hitchcock’s Rebecca. We know from the get-go that, despite its lofty goals, something terribly wrong roils under the surface at the school, where certain rooms are forbidden by the operatic, highly theatrical all-female instructors. In those roles, watch for fabulous, layered work from Ingrid Caven, known for several movies directed by her ex-husband, Rainer Werner Fassbinder; Renee Soutendijk, unforgettable in early Paul Verhoeven movies; and Angela Winkler, of several of Volker Schlondorff’s finest.
Susie becomes the star student of the Markos Dance Company, and Guadagnino films Johnson and the other students performing bizarre, campy/thrilling Pina Bausch-esque routines (choreographed by Damien Jalet) with disturbing rigor, fever and energy. Talking about her violent, sexually ecstatic dancing, Susie says, “I feel like what it must feel like to fuck.” A man? She announces, “No. I was thinking of an animal.” Things get darker, clammier, more unnerving and, most of all, deeply sadder from there. By the time the movie goes for full-on horror in an astonishing ritual sequence set in the school’s basement, you may find yourself climbing the walls—so long as you’re down with Suspiria.
It’s not for everyone, especially those looking for cheap thrills.
Klemperer, meanwhile, obsessively searches at length—and we mean, at length—for his long-missing wife (touchingly played by Jessica Harper, star of the first Suspiria) who is presumed long-dead. Then, there is also the undercurrent of terrorism and riots by Red Army insurgents, and long passages dealing with themes of the lingering trauma of Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust. There’s a lot to unpack here, and not all of it works, but the movie drills deep into the psyche. It’s not for everyone, especially those looking for cheap thrills. Many will outright hate it. But I found Suspiria to be ravishing, repellant, skin-crawling—and unforgettable.
- Tired of the same old formula? You're welcome
- It may not be the right fit for less-patient viewers