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Original vs. Remake: Suspiria

There are spoilers for Suspiria (1977) but the review for Suspiria (2018) contains no spoilers. So knock yourselves out!

Suspiria (1977)GracieKat

Suspiria (1977) movie cover

Suspiria might almost defy my tendency to do a recap/review/synopsis. Almost. Ok. Here goes. Suspiria starts with an American dancer traveling to Germany to attend ballet school. She’s turned away at the school for reasons unknown (yet) but runs into a woman running from the school. After Suzy sees the same woman running through the trees she loses sight of her and we lose sight of Suzy for a bit.

We follow the mysterious woman (Pat Hingle) as she flees to a friend’s house where she is promptly murdered in the most spectacular way possible. Suzy finally arrives at the school to promptly be berated for being late, told about Pat’s murder and offered a room to board with a fellow student because her room isn’t ready yet. But she’s late. After her first night with Olga, Suzy is told that her room is now ready but she tells the headmistress that she’d rather stay with Olga. They butt heads about it until the headmistress, Madame Blanc, relents. At her first practice Suzy feels faint and passes out, bleeding from the mouth and nose. The doctor is called and Olga quickly shunts Suzy’s stuff out of her room so Suzy has nowhere to sty but the Academy. Olga never shows up again.

Suspiria - Suzy in a cab

The doctor prescribes Suzy a bland diet and wine with every dinner. Suzy becomes unnaturally tired. Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not! This is where shit starts getting crazy and the plot…takes a break for awhile. Well, not really, but it does take a backseat to the supernatural shenanigans. First, a rain of maggots drives the girls into the main hall for the night. Sara, Suzy’s neighbor in the dorm, starts confiding in Suzy about being friends with Pat and being suspicious of the school in general. She is also the one who turned Suzy away at the door that night. In a sleep-state Suzy tells Sara that the teachers don’t leave for the night. She can tell by the direction of the footsteps. Sara goes exploring, only to meet her end in a room full of barbed wire. Every ballet school comes equipped with one.

After Sara’s death the teachers explain her disappearance by telling Suzy that she “ran away”. Umkay. Suzy talks to a friend of Sara’s who tells her that the school was founded by Helena Markos, a woman ousted from several countries for witchcraft.

Suzy starts suspecting that she’s being drugged and so does a piss poor job of ditching her drink in the sink. She then recalls what she heard Pat yell in the storm and finds the witches coven. Madame Blanc is ordering the death of the American girl and asking Helena for power. Suzy then stumbles on the very Helena Markos we’ve heard so much about. And I’m not even going to try to describe this part because it’s part fever dream and all terrifying.

Needless to say, Suzy vanquishes Helena and the Academy does a House of Usher and crumbles, also setting itself ablaze in the process, killing the coven inside. At first I thought the students had been killed as well but there is dialogue saying that they’ve gone to some festival in town (that they didn’t invite Suzy to. Rude.) And so ends Suspiria.

I have questions.

Most of the questions I have involve the character of Suzy. it feels like the witches want her there. But. Why are they drugging her? Why do they want to kill her so badly? She has literally done nothing to threaten them, hasn’t snooped, nothing. I’m not sure why she’s such a threat.

But you know what? None of that matters. Nope. Just sit back and watch the gorgeous colours, fantastic death scenes and unique sets and locations. the score is very eerie and fits the movie so well, as if it’s tailored to it. Which it is. Argeto worked closely with Goblin while developing the score. I’ve got to say that’s a nice change from random music thrown in or music so loud that you can’t even hear what’s being said. The plot is there, if you want it but it really does take a backstage to all of the glorious weirdness going on onscreen. I watched this ages ago. I want to say 1990ish? But all these years later I still remembered the maggots and the barbwire room. Especially the barbwire room.

I read that Argento had originally written the characters to be around twelve years old, presumably to give it a more fairy tale feel which feels like what he’s trying to convey. But putting children in such violent death scenes at the time was a huge no-go so he bumped the ages up to twenty but didn’t change the script at all. S a lot of the dialogue sounds childish and explains so much about some scenes. like the ‘she ran away’ explanation for Sara’s disappearance. It also makes the remakes’ “remimaging” a bit more ‘creepy’, in a whooole other way.

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Suspiria (2018)Nico

If a movie is over 90 minutes, I’m weary. I think it’s because I’m still recovering from my teenage years when movies felt the need to push a three hour limit. (Sorry, but I’m looking at your Lord of the Rings and Titanic). So when Suspiria came to theaters and I saw it was two hours and thirty-two minutes, I passed. It started streaming, and even then I had to be convinced into watching it.

I’m so glad I finally caved.

I loved this movie. It was beautifully created with enough intrigue and tension to keep the pace rolling. I haven’t seen the original, so I watched Suspiria with a fresh set of eyes. Its artistic cinematography mixed with gore created a thoroughly entertaining experience.

Let’s talk about Tilda Swinton. She plays three characters in this movie – Dr. Klemperer, Madame Blanc and Lutz Ebersdorf. I’m certain if any other actor had been cast into these roles, the movie wouldn’t have worked. Swinton’s on air presence created an eerie and tense tone throughout the entire film, and her chemistry with Dakota Johnson, who plays Susie, sizzled.

There’s nothing conventional about this movie. The way the dance scenes connect to the underlying world of deception and horror had me on the edge of my seat. It’s a true feminist movie with blood and gore, tons of symbolism and secrets, and a twist I didn’t see coming. However, I admit the ending confused me. After the credits rolled, I went online to figure out what I’d just watched only to realize my interpretation of the film was way off the original intent. But that’s okay with me. I still enjoyed every second. I highly recommend.

Published inMovie Reviews
©Sci-Fi & Scary 2019
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