There are some pretty interesting choices that acclaimed directors have made over the years. Gus Van Sant deciding to do a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho after crafting his own classic in Good Will Hunting comes to mind. Similarly, Luca Guadagnino has tackled a reimagining of Dario Argento's classic Suspiria as his follow-up to his Oscar-winning drama Call Me By Your Name. It's no doubt a bold choice and one that will be talked about a great deal. Unfortunately, Suspiria is destined to be divisive and for many, myself included, will serve as nothing more than a drawn out and downright unpleasant experience.
Suspiria centers on a determined and confident dancer named Susie (Dakota Johnson) who becomes the new star of a world-renowned dance company. Her mentors take a quick shine to her, though, not for the reasons she may have hoped. This dance company is secretly home to an ancient coven of witches who believe Susie is just the girl they've been waiting for. The troupe's artistic director (Tilda Swinton) has some trepidation, but takes Susie under her wing in order to ready her for a ritual the coven is desperate to carry out. However, a grieving psychotherapist suspects there may be more going on at this dance company than meets the eye and finds himself in the middle of the unsuspecting women of the dance troupe and this dangerous coven.
Sometimes this job requires one to comment on something that they might not otherwise view were it not for a professional obligation. I had suspected Suspiria wasn't my cup of tea ahead of this screening at Fantastic Fest and I couldn't have been more correct. Still, I do my best to attempt objectivity and don't ever relish the chance to be negative about a movie. Despite the fact that certain cinephiles and horror lovers will taut this as a masterpiece, I simply cannot see that for myself and felt downright trapped by the experience of watching these events unfold. It's a punishing 152 minutes and I have to imagine even those who, for whatever reason, adore this nightmare must be able to admit there is fat to trim. It's two and a half hours and it somehow feels like three hours could be cut.
I'm certain those who don't like Suspiria will be accused of simply not understanding. I'm certain my peers who enjoy this movie will shake their heads at me and balk at my personal distaste for it. But I suspect I will not be alone. Not by a long shot. This is by no means something that was crafted for the casual moviegoer. Nor do I even feel as though it was crafted for the average horror fan. It's a small target this thing is going to hit. Fantastic Fest, a haven for genre movie fans, was the perfect place to showcase such a movie and I assure you, I was not the only one making a dash for the lobby. Then again, the line for the exclusive poster after the screening was quite long as well. Again, divisive.
The movie drones on and because it is so drearily slow, the vile, unquestionably revolting and violent imagery that pops up now and again is even more jarring than it otherwise might have been. It's not scary. It's just hideous. There are so many moments that are unbelievably difficult to watch. Were it not for professional obligation, I would have left long before the movie's climax. And that climax is so long, gratuitous and profoundly unpleasant that I'm going to have to spend a long time actively trying to scrub it from my memory. It's horrible to the degree that it's upsetting.
What's strange is that I had an expectation that Suspiria would mostly punish me more with its unsettling visuals than anything else. While there are more than enough repugnant images that will be tough to shake, it's this movie's downright boringness that stunned me. That's not to say there isn't craft at play. This is an artistically well-composed piece of work. There are a ton of talented individuals lending their talents here. Tilda Swinton, for example, is her usual amount of stunning. In fact, the most entertaining part is trying to figure out whether or not the mysterious first-time actor Lutz Ebersdorf is actually Swinton under heavy prosthetics. And this is Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's first time ever scoring a movie. How cool is that? But beauty and competent craft can't spare the experience from being truly tedious. Even the best chef can make a terrible tasting dish using only the best of ingredients.
There's the old saying about putting lipstick on a pig. This is exceptionally gorgeous lipstick applied to an appallingly ugly pig that has had its stomach cut open with its intestines spilling out, simply begging to be put out of its misery. Sure, the lipstick is quite nice but the beast otherwise exists as described. That is Suspira. Amazon and Luca Guadagnino have crafted something that is sure to inspire conversation, but it's a conversation I want no further part of.