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“Suspiria” Dancing with Evil




Review by John Delia

Weird and disturbing the movie Suspiria takes you into the realm of evil. Although it could have been a good film for horror fans, the film lags to extremes and movies so slow you may nod off from the droning music and repetitious modern ballet. When you do finally get to the terror, for horror fans it’s a good presentation of typical gore and extreme evil violence. Not for the squeamish or fearful the film does achieve points of cruel depravity, pernicious nudity and bone snapping body parts. Bring a pillow, you’ll be there for a while.

Dancer Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) has been lead performer for Markos Dance Academy in 1977 West Berlin under the tutelage of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) for some time. However, she has become unhinged from being completely engrossed in her dance character and a fear that the school is involved in witchcraft. To her troupe of dancers, Blanc tells them Patricia has gone missing and possibly joined the revolution taking place in the city. Patricia no longer with the dance troupe, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) from Ohio, USA gets noticed by Blanc for her ferocious dance style. She envisions her as a possible lead role in her new dance recital “Volk”. She offers her a chance to join the troupe and Susie gives a convincing performance.

Mia Goth as Sara and Dakota Johnson as Susie star in Suspiria. Photos courtesy of Amazon Studios

The film goes on from there adding a side story involving Psychotherapist Jozef Klemperer and his involvement with the Academy through both Patricia and then a Russian dance student named Olga (Elena Fokina). Director Luca Guadagnino utilizes Tilda Swinton’s abilities beyond Madame Blanc to perform the roles of Klemperer, and later the witch conveyer Mother Helena Markos a disgusting aged woman covered in awful skin growths and evil cankers.

The original Susperia (1977) had more of the right idea of keeping the length of the film within range of what most fans of the horror genre want to experience. So actually I really don’t know what director Luca Guadagnino and his stable of writers were looking to do here. If you take for example the recent Halloween, its length was the usual 1 hour and 46 minutes. Most horror/thriller flicks set up the whole experience within the first 20 to 30 minutes that includes the intro of the main characters, their persona and the tasks that are at hand. 2018 Susperia does that, but then presses on beyond the limit with side stories, more dancing, dining and superficial details. It means nothing to those waiting to see the real “crush” of evil, violence, bone snapping and gore that in this film lasts for no more than 15 minutes of the motion picture.

Tilda Swinton as Madam Blanc stars in Suspiria. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

Using a lot of dance to introduce the subjects and setup the future finale, Guadagnino uses gobs of scenes that become general anesthesia to the point of snores. The music wears on the viewer and combined with the repetitious movements of the dancers turn into a metronome for monotony. While as a writer that has to stay awake, I was inspired by the first half hour that included the rehearsals by the women who could dance. However, I felt bad for Dakota Johnson trying to bring her character Susie to life with a routine that any rookie dancer could have handled after a few sessions. Even though I may seem harsh on Johnson’s dancing, as I do like Johnson’s acting in the “Shades” series, her routines look like camera magic rather than actual ability.

Dakota Johnson stars as Susie in SUSPIRIA Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Swinton actually caries the film on her back with a “trio” of performances that are terrific. She’s Madame Blanc, the “mother” of the troupe, and with that comes a stern face that rarely cracks a smile (unless it’s an evil one). Her demeanor embodies her character with a malevolent streak, especially showing when the girls are working the routine of “Volk” being played out on the rehearsal floor. As the elderly German psychotherapist Klemperer who escaped the holocaust, his sadness shows in his eyes while he interviews subjects from Madame Blanc’s dance group. Later it turns to happiness when his wife comes into play. But, there’s more to that character I’d like to know, but even with a two and a half hour film, Klemperer is just a sidebar in the script. Dressing in a ghastly rubber suit as the primordial Mother Helena Markos, there’s not much for Swinton to do except flay her arms around letting the fake skin do all the work. I will say, however, it would have made a super Halloween costume for sure. And congrats to the costume/make-up crew as it actually looks as professional as Jabba the Hutt.

Suspiria has been rated R by the MPAA for disturbing content involving ritualistic violence, bloody images and graphic nudity, and for some language including sexual references. I can go on and on about why this film failed my expectations, but for some that may want to see the film out of curiosity, I’ll let it go as said above. This is not film for the immature at all. The nudity is not sensual, but actually disgusting and flagrantly disparaging of the female body. While this may work in some films, the dance of the “Volk” is more of a sordid display of gratuitous nudity showing lost souls caught up in a witches’ coven, rather than an artistic view of the human body.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A banal use of excellent talent. (1.5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Lutz Ebersdorf, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Elena Fokina, Sylvie Testud, Renée Soutendijk, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jessica Harper.
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing content involving ritualistic violence, bloody images and graphic nudity, and for some language including sexual references
Running Time: 2 hrs. 32 min.
Opening Date: November 2, 2018
Distributed by: Amazon Pictures
Released in: Standard

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