‘Suspiria’ Film Review: Luca Guadagnino’s Misguided Horror Remake Falls Flat

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It was impossible not to have high expectations for Luca Guadagnino’s remake of “Suspiria.” Dario Argento’s original is, after all, a one-of-a-kind horror freak-out, the kind of mesmerizingly bizarre cinematic experience so sui generis that any remake would have to represent an aggressive reimagining.

And who better to take on this seemingly impossible assignment than Guadagnino, coming off the impressive troika of “I Am Love,” “A Bigger Splash” and “Call Me By Your Name”? The cinema’s greatest sensualist wasn’t going to make us smell the rosemary or taste the apricot juice this time; the idea of his gifts being applied to blood-drenched horror promised a uniquely terrifying experience.

So what does Guadagnino’s version convey? Boredom, mostly, with confusion and a dollop of disappointment and irritation.

Watch Video: ‘Suspiria’: Watch Terrifying 1st Full Trailer for Luca Guadagnino’s Horror Remake

The original was set at a creepy dance academy in 1977 Berlin, so Guadagnino and writer David Kajganich (“A Bigger Splash”) have decided to lean into that time and place: There is constant discussion on TV about terrorism and the Baader-Meinhof group, and one of the plot points revolves around lingering survivor’s guilt in the post-Nazi era. What do either of these ideas have to do with a dance academy that’s a front for a coven of witches? The new “Suspiria” doesn’t seem to know.

(It’s not unlike Jonathan Demme’s decision to remake the early-’60s classic “Charade” as the nouvelle vague-influenced “The Truth About Charlie,” since the French New Wave was happening in Paris as Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn strolled by the Seine. An interesting idea on paper, perhaps, but historical context only works in a remake if there’s an actual point to it.)

The 1977 setting also allows the filmmaker (and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” “Call Me By Your Name”) to go hard on the Fassbinder kitchen-sink miserabilism, which certainly could, in other circumstances, make a great, grim backdrop to an atmospheric horror movie. But the result here is to put an unappealing visual sheen on an already dreary film.

Also Read: ‘Suspiria’ Remake Will Haunt You For Whopping 152 Minutes

Dakota Johnson stars as Susie, a young woman raised by Mennonites but longing to dance with Berlin’s Helena Markos Dance Company. She travels to Berlin, and her first audition blows away choreographer and former lead dancer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), who accepts her on the spot.

There’s an open room in the dormitory due to the disappearance of another dancer, Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz). Some whisper that she has run off to join the terrorists, but the film opens with her in a ranting panic, telling her psychiatrist Dr. Klemperer (Lutz Ebersdorf) that the Markos instructors are witches who plan to destroy her.

Klemperer at first dismisses her fears as a delusion, but after Patricia disappears, he begins to investigate more closely, even though he’s got his own problems; years after the end of the war, he still holds out hope that his wife, from whom he was separated as they tried to flee Berlin, will return to him safe and sound. Meanwhile, Susie quickly climbs the ranks, and Madame Blanc selects her to take the lead role in the company’s most famous dance piece, “Volk.”

Also Read: ‘Suspiria’ Remake Gets R Rating for ‘Ritualistic Violence, Bloody Images and Graphic Nudity’

The actual performance of “Volk” immediately ranks alongside “Goddess” in “Showgirls” and the fertility dance from “Lost Horizon” as one of the screen’s most unintentionally hilarious pieces of choreography. The ludicrous terpsichorean display isn’t helped by the costuming; the dancers all wear bright-red ropes tied in what appear to be Japanese Shibari bondage knots, a provocative choice undercut by the big white granny panties that they sport underneath.

To be fair, there’s at least one legitimate scare to be found here; as Susie learns the new dance steps, her motions are mirrored in the basement of the studio, where an unseen force pillories a young woman to near-death using the exact same moves. But by the time “Suspiria” reaches its blood-soaked, all-of-them-witches climax, I was suppressing church giggles. The frights aren’t frightening, the political subtext never connects with the rest of the movie, and even Guadagnino’s generally unfailing visual sense isn’t enough to put this over.

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Swinton (playing more than one role, for no apparent reason) and Johnson give the material more than it deserves, but even they can’t put helium into a lead balloon. The other ballet instructors are played by a fascinating ensemble of performers (including 1970s Euro-stars like Fassbinder’s wife Ingrid Caven, German New Wave icon Angela Winkler, and onetime Paul Verhoeven leading lady Renée Soutendijk, as well as Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek), but they’re given very little to do.

It’s tempting to say that Guadagnino treats them like furniture, but in one of his better movies, he would actually shoot the furniture in a meaningful way.

As for Thom Yorke’s score, it’s decidedly unobtrusive, which for some is the mark of good film music. Apart from a song under the opening credits and another under the closing credits, very little of it announces its presence. Given how little subtlety “Suspiria” otherwise displays, that’s an admirable sign of restraint.



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Why Ridley Scott Thinks Prestige Horror ‘Works Better’ on TV

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The much-buzzed about “Hereditary” comes out today — and based on all the reviews — it appears if you catch the horror flick at your local movie theater it will traumatize you (in an elevated way) for quite some time. Or maybe just until you get home and turn on your TV.

With the resurgence of prestigious films that give you the chills (see Ari Aster’s disturbing family tale above, “Get Out,” “It,” “A Quiet Place” and the upcoming “Suspiria” remake),  TheWrap thought we’d check in with Ridley Scott — whose 1979 film “Alien” is one of the most famed horror movies of all time — about where the classier side of the genre is headed these days. And this was while discussing one of his most recent projects: a TV show he told us was “better” than a spooky flick in a lot of ways.

“I think so, because horror, in a funny kind of way, is famous for a captive audience,” Scott said when TheWrap asked if he thought TV was taking over the prestige horror genre (despite the release of the titles we already mentioned) in an interview last month ahead of the Season 1 finale of his frightening AMC series, “The Terror.”

Also Read: ‘The Terror’ Bosses, Ridley Scott on That ‘Of Course’ Finale, Why Season Was ‘Better’ Than a Horror Film

“[And with TV] you are at home. And by being at home you are kind of uneasy,” Scott continued. “‘Cause if you are by yourself, you’re looking over your shoulder in the room. I think, yeah, it kind of makes it more — if horror can be called ‘fun’ and being scared to death can be called ‘fun,’ then yeah, I think it works better at home rather than sitting in a room full of lots of people. Sitting by yourself, the fear can be really scary if the show is very effective. I still like to put it under the heading of ‘fun.’ Hopefully, it can be ‘fun.’”

“‘The Walking Dead’ set that up fine, didn’t they?” Scott said of the beginnings of elevated scary stories making their way onto the small screen. “It’s all good, because I think what’s happening with the real evolution and expansion of television is coming some really great writing and some really great ideas. I mean, television, in a funny kind of way, is rather in its Golden Age, isn’t it? It’s really evolving and — if you’re not careful — it will definitely replace feature films, which would be a pity, because it’s very great to watch something on a very big screen.”

“But a lot of this material, honestly, works on the smaller screen,” Scott added. “And today, your technology of what we call a smaller screen today can be at least 3 or 4 feet with a great sound and great picture quality. So it’s becoming more and more difficult to make feature films compete with the evolving TV now. Very good quality. And there is a lot of good writers working in TV now.”

Also Read: Watch the Terrifying Trailer for Sundance Horror Film ‘Hereditary’ (Video)

Two such writers Scott knows are Soo Hugh and David Kajganich, the creators and showrunners behind “The Terror.” And while they both have dabbled in film too (with Kajganich being the screenwriter behind the next iteration of “Suspiria”) this particular project — a fictionalized account of a British expedition that becomes stuck in the ice and is haunted by a creature — was meant for TV. Always. Mainly because the Jared Harris-led drama had characters whose stories just wouldn’t fit into the confined timing of a feature film.

“The question really is, is the horror being driven by character?” Kajganich said. “And if it is, then television is a fantastic opportunity for, you know, these longer form stories. I think that’s something a lot of people haven’t thought about. That a genre like horror can be driven by character and can benefit from six hours, eight hours, 10 hours, multiple seasons. And that’s certainly something we loved about this experience.”

“We knew we were in the horror genre, but we knew we wanted to drive it with character,” Kajganich continued. “And the chance to do that over 10 hours is just not something you would ever have in cinema. You would never have a character-based horror franchise that lasted five films. It would just be sort of unthinkable. But we got to do it on TV. So it could be a boon for character-based horror in the most profound way.”

Also Read: ‘Suspiria’ Teaser: The Hook Comes Out in Luca Guadagnino’s Creepy Horror Remake (Video)

Kajganich added that horror on television can now “rival the visceral experience of horror in a movie theater” because you don’t have to “neuter” the visual elements of the story in the same way you used to.

Of course irony sets in here when Kajganich tells you he sort of wishes “some enterprising movie theater would do a ‘Terror’ weekend” so fans could watch it all together.

So horror on TV, but make it movies?

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The hook comes out — along with a wall-crawling woman and other unnerving images — in the disturbing first teaser trailer for “Suspiria” that Amazon Studios released Monday.

Luca Guadagnino’s brutal remake stars Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz and Tilda Swinton.

The film, based on Dario Argento’s 1977 supernatural horror film, follows the disturbing events at a renowned dance academy where a girl goes missing and things definitely seem to go bump in the night.

Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

Watch the teaser trailer for #Suspiria, in theaters November 2. pic.twitter.com/PAFddpb9rO

— Suspiria (@suspiriamovie) June 4, 2018

Also Read: Amazon Sets Awards Release for Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Suspiria’

In an early footage presentation for American movie theater owners at April’s CinemaCon, Guadagnino held nothing back in a graphic scene where a ballerina’s body was contorted — bones breaking, bile-spewing and generally horrifying as she danced in sync with Johnson.

Guadagnino, an Oscar nominee last year for “Call Me By Your Name,” worked for an updated script by David Kajganich. The film also features a score by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

Amazon plans a November 2 theatrical release for the movie.

Watch the new teaser trailer above.

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AMC’s ‘The Terror’ Showrunners Really, Really Want You to ‘Fact Check’ Them – Seriously

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AMC’s new drama “The Terror” is a series that was constructed for you to pull apart.

Seriously, co-showrunners David Kajganich and Soo Hugh told the TheWrap they want nothing more than for you to “fact check” their historical horror, which has quickly caught the attention of fans and critics alike since it premiered last month.

“This show is absolutely built for that,” Kajganich told TheWrap in a recent interview. “There is a lot more going on in the show at any given moment, in any given scene, than people will realize watching it the first time. You know, things that seem completely innocuous, objects that seem completely innocuous, lines of dialogue that seem completely innocuous in the scene they happen in, become of major importance later.”

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Based on Dan Simmons’ 2007 novel of the same name, the Ridley Scott-produced series is set in the Canadian Arctic in the 1800s, and is a fictionalized account of a British expedition that becomes stuck in the ice. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the crew — which includes Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier, Ciarán Hinds as Sir John Franklin, and Tobias Menzies as Captain James Fitzjames — was haunted by a horrifying creature.

Because “The Terror” can be placed in both the historical and supernatural categories, Kajganich and Hugh want viewers to go forth and theorize.

“There are people who are starting to pick up on that,” Kajganich said. “And also people who are starting to pick up on the fact that the show has a very strange sense of humor, and that it is OK to laugh at the show at times. So the people who are starting to tune into those elements of the show are really starting to already realize that the show is inviting them to do that. And the show is encouraging and rewarding them for doing that. So, yeah, every time I look online, I’m hoping for one more comment or post or tweet that is picking the show apart — because we want people to. There is so much there to dig into. So we’re just thrilled when people do it.”

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“It’s also been nice to see the fans dig into the real life history element, which for Dave and I, just tells you that history is fascinating,” Hugh added. “And so just to see the ripple effect on social media and with various news outlets, people saying, ‘Wait, what really happened? I want to go back and start googling about the expedition. I’m going to read this book, I’m going to read this book’ — that’s great.”

“‘Cause not only do we want fanboys and fangirls to look at all the hidden Easter eggs in our show, but we also want them to dive back and go back to the historical narrative. ‘Cause fact check that — please!” she said, laughing. “We love that kind of stuff.”

“The Terror” is executive produced by Kajganich and Hugh, along with Scott, David W. Zuker (“The Good Wife”), Alexandra Milchan (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Scott Lambert (“Jane Got a Gun”) and Guymon Casady (“Game of Thrones”).

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The series hails from Scott Free, Emjag Productions and Entertainment 360 in association with AMC Studios.

“The Terror” airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC.

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If you are looking to try and get ahead of a problem on AMC’s “The Terror,” Sir John Franklin (Ciarán Hinds) is not the guy you should be speaking to. Well, if you don’t want to seem like you are questioning his judgement, that is.

In the preview clip above from Monday’s episode, which is exclusive to TheWrap, Captain Francis Crozier (Jared Harris) goes to Sir John to get permission to send a “sledge party” out from the ship, not for leads, but for rescue. If the men leave now, they will have “three full months to get there before winter comes in force.”

Wait, he wants to send a group of guys to walk 800 miles in the ice? Nah, Sir John does not grant permission.

But Francis wants to make sure John understands why he is proposing this strategy. “You are suggesting it because you are a man who is happiest with a glass of knock-me-down in one hand and an alarm bell in the other.”

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No, Francis says. He’s doing it so they don’t die. Oh, snap.

“The Terror,” based on Dan Simmons’ novel (and a true story), follows the men of the Royal Navy as they set off on a quest through uncharted territory in search of the Northern Passage from 1845 to 1848.

On their way, they encounter about as many problems as Odysseus did while trying to get back from the Trojan War, including unsafe conditions, dwindling resources, wicked bad frostbite, hopelessness, and some in-house drama.

The series stars Harris as Francis, Hinds as John, and Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”) as Captain James Fitzjames. It’s executive produced by showrunners David Kajganich and Soo Hugh, along with Scott, David W. Zuker (“The Good Wife”), Alexandra Milchan (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Scott Lambert (“Jane Got a Gun”), and Guymon Casady (“Game of Thrones”).

Also Read: Ridley Scott’s ‘The Terror’ Drops First Teaser, Premiere Date (Video)

The show hails from Scott Free, Emjag Productions and Entertainment 360 in association with AMC Studios.

Watch the clip above.

“The Terror” airs Mondays at 9/8c on AMC.

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