By Dean Galiffa
Shake, rattle and roll.
As in: there is a scene in which a dancer’s body shakes in agony as her limbs contort, her bones rattle and her innards roll.
That is the kind of grotesque imagery running throughout “Suspiria,” directed by Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino.
The film is a remake of the 1977 horror cult-classic of the same title, but takes many liberties. Indeed, much of Guadagnino’s film is an expansion of the already outlined story by Director Dario Argento, yet translates as a convoluted, expansive, and sometimes onerous plot.
Starring Dakota Johnson in the protagonist role of Susie, a young dancer from Ohio who travels to the acclaimed Markos Dance Company in Berlin for an audition, the film’s eerie set design and arthouse camera work creates an unease that never lets up.
Although the movie never quite tops the “shake, rattle, and roll” scene in terms of making the audiences’ skin crawl, it leaves the viewer anticipating the worst at every creek and squish.
Alongside Susie is the renowned dance instructor Madame Blanc, portrayed by Tilda Swinton, who is instantly impressed and almost transfixed by Susie’s skill.
From the start of her time at the company, Susie is groomed for the lead role in the company’s upcoming production. We come to find later on in the film that this seemingly innocent lead role is far more sinister than it appears on the surface.
A standout performance of the film is Mia Goth, who plays the supporting role of Sara, a vivacious and skilled dancer who falls victim to the dance company’s more malevolent regime.
Unlike her leading opposites, Goth’s character and performance are far more interesting than Johnson’s Susie. However, this could be the fault of poor direction or screenwriting.
Still, some major performances were notable. In addition to her role as Madame Blanc, Swinton plays two other characters, including the primary role of Dr. Josef Klemperer, a psychoanalyst who begins to investigate Markos Dance Company after sessions with a former dancer.
Without the knowledge that it is Swinton under a prosthetic nose and thick frames, Klemperer just comes off as a stiff old man with an oddly high-pitched croak of a voice.
The prosthetics hindered her performance, but Swinton’s acting chops did pay off when becoming each character.
Both costume and set design were improved by an overall clean performance of both the actors and the cinematographer.
Bearing red hair and a middle part, Johnson was able to fit perfectly in the cold bluish brown hues of Markos Dance Company.
Playing off of its predecessor, the plain lighting and clever use of color in the costumes of “Suspiria” pay tribute to the original film.
While the 1977 version often used simple costume design and vibrant settings, the remake could not be any more opposite.
Most notably, the sound design of the film was truly haunting. Along with rather graphic imagery, each individual crack, snap, and crunch punctuated the overall realism of each scene.
Defined by grotesque imagery, sound design, and experimental cinematography, Gaudagnino’s take on the cult classic leaves the audience with many unanswered questions.
The film leaves much of the plot unexplained, with some subplots feeling completely unnecessary altogether.
Nevertheless, overall, the casual movie-goer and film buff alike will be shaken, rattled, and rolled by “Suspiria.”
Valerie Battaglia also contributed to the writing of this review.
Contact Dean Galiffa at firstname.lastname@example.org