Director: Luca Guadagnino
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Doris Hick
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
When it comes to making a remake, doing one for a Dario Argento film, and his groundbreaking and mindboggling Suspiria in particular, had to be a daunting task. Add to that challenge the director, Luca Guadagnino, while a capable and experienced filmmaker, isn’t exactly a “name” in the horror world. So saying I was dubious of this effort would be putting it mildly. Imagine my surprise then when the movie wound up on my Best Horror Movies of 2018 list. Yes, really, I was as shocked as you. Now Lionsgate has released a new Blu-ray of this Amazon Studios fim. How is it? Well, grab your dance shoes, pick up an English-to-German dictionary, and let’s find out.
An American girl from rural Ohio (and a Mennonite-like community) travels to a divided Berlin (yes, that was a thing, kids) in the 70s to try out for a prestigious dance academy. She makes the cut, starts to train, and almost from the start notices things are not exactly what they appear to be. Yes, the witchcraft and overt horror elements are there from the start, but the story still retains its ability to surprise and draw its mystery out to the end. It is also a long movie, but it runs at a fast clip and leaves you wanting more at the end.
Luca Guadagnino does an amazing job directing the hell out of this. While Argento’s original is more striking visually and hauntingly dreamlike in its logic, this version is more gore-tastic, feels more solidly set in its era and location, and yes, the story makes more traditional sense. Further, all the acting is good here, with Dakota Johnson being much, much, much better here than any of her Shades of Grey movies. Also Tilda Swinton knocks things out of the park playing three vastly different parts here, two of them completely unrecognizable under layers of impressive makeup. I won’t say what parts she plays in order not to ruin things; just watch the credits and be amazed.
Let’s get to the extras that Lionsgate put on this new Blu-ray release. There is a very short making-of featurette that’s just four minutes long. There is another four-minute short on the “secret language of dance.” Last but not least there is a four-and-a-half minute (ohhhhh) feature of some of the makeup special effects from the movie. And that’s it. Now I know Amazon is a new studio but between them, Lionsgate, and it being 2019, I really did expect more. Barebones this disc is not, but it is pretty picked clean. Shame.
Suspiria 2018 did the impossible. It remade a movie to be every bit as good as the original, but gave it its own voice, went its own way, and is still very much recognizable to what influenced it. This remake does not eclipse the original but it can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with it, and that that is quite an accomplishment. Consider it highly recommended.