Ellie Hogrebe, Staff Writer
Old, shadowy and decrepit houses long plagued by whispers of something ghastly lurking within their walls populate many of the horror movies we enjoy. Not so in “Suspiria,” a supernatural horror film by director Luca Guadagnino, released Oct. 26. There is certainly something ghastly hiding beneath the floorboards in “Suspiria,” but this film’s setting may challenge audience members’ preconceived notions about where evil resides.
Guadagnino’s picture is a remake of a 1977 film of the same name directed by the venerable “Master of Horror” Dario Argento. The 2018 version of “Suspiria” stars Dakota Johnson, best known for her work as the female lead in the infamous “Fifty Shades” film series. Also appearing in the almost entirely female cast is Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth and Chloe Grace Moretz.
At first glance the sophisticated and modern Markos Dance Academy, the primary setting of “Suspiria,” is in stark contrast with the typical image of where evil tends to reside. The year is 1977, and the films follows the young American Susie Bannion, played by Johnson, as she auditions for and is accepted into a prestigious dance academy in Berlin, Germany.
Although her acceptance into the acclaimed institution feels like an impossible dream come true to Susie, her life at the Markos Dance Academy soon becomes nightmarish. She begins to suffer from disturbing, fragmented dream-visions that haunt her sleep each night. Rumors of dancers who have disappeared without a trace reach her ears. Susie sees and hears enough to make her suspect that the women running the company are involved in sinister plot against herself and the other young dancers that may involve witchcraft.
“Suspiria” was a film that I felt conflicted about after the credits rolled and the theater lights glowed back to life. A few days later, sitting down to gather my thoughts about it, I still feel conflicted. I have a suspicion this might have been the intention of Luca Guadagnino.
Regarding the positive aspects of “Suspiria,” I will say that I was entertained throughout the entire movie. This is impressive considering that its running time is two and a half hours. The film kept its mysteries veiled, piquing my interest and forcing me to stay engaged in the storyline.
Guadagnino’s film is also intriguing because of the dynamic camera work displayed in different shots and sequences. The director utilizes quick cuts that force the audience to pay close attention. Littering the film are perplexing cuts to seemingly insignificant objects that the camera focuses on for just a little bit longer than expected. These shots kept my brain working throughout the film, trying to make sense of why these unassuming things might be important.
Although I appreciate how “Suspiria” keeps secrets throughout the film and therefore compels its viewers to stay absorbed in its story, I think it suffers from keeping too many of them even after the movie ends. I was puzzled as I was watching the story unfold, and I was looking forward to having some of my questions answered. However, I left the theater with a lingering unsatisfied feeling. The film was trying to make a point, but it was so convoluted and ambiguous I failed to grasp it.
A movie does not have to answer all the questions it raises. The best films leave at least a few of their plot points open to the imagination and speculation of the audience. But “Suspiria” alienates its viewers by leaving far too many of its central mysteries unresolved and unexplained.