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Film is a remake…of sorts…of Dario Argento’s classic 1977 horror of the same name. It uses the very basic plot framework of a coven of witches in a German dance academy, along with a few character names, but otherwise is it’s own thing. This re-imagining takes place in 1977 West Berlin during the Lufthansa Flight 181 hostage crisis. A former Mennonite from Ohio, Susie Bannion (Dakatoa Johnson) comes to study dance at the Markos Dance Academy. There is, as with Argento’s version, something very sinister going on at the academy and headmistress Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) may have plans for the pretty new student.

Remake is directed by Luca Guadagnino from a script by David Kajganich based on the original screenplay by Argento and Daria Nicolodi and does involve Argento’s “Three Mothers”. It’s an intriguing film to be sure and is far more art house than grind house. It is also, however, a bit of a meandering film at 150 minutes long. It takes an hour longer to tell the story and that wouldn’t be a bad thing, if that story was expanded, gave the characters more depth, or added emotional resonance…and there is the film’s major problem. Despite adding a lot of details to Argento’s simple tale, such as Susie’s Mennonite past, the hostage crisis occurring at the same time, or the sub-plot of a German Doctor (also Swinton, billed as Lutz Ebersdorf) who lost his wife during the war, none of it really adds anything to the story or enhances the characters. It simply just makes the movie longer, but not especially richer. There is some feminist and social commentary, but it’s not enough to really resonate or make this any more relevant than it’s predecessor. What the remake does have in it’s favor, is that there are a lot of disturbing and unsettling moments and the movie can get quite grotesque, especially in the last act when all hell breaks loose, quite literally. We are treated to some creepy dream sequences and some squirm inducing moments, such as when dancer Olga (Elena Fokina) learns the hard way that leaving the academy is not so easy. The sequences in the witches’ lair behind the academy walls are also quite effective and the film can be very atmospheric when it wants to be…though in contrast, some of the earlier moments are a bit bland to be honest. It takes a while to get going and that’s when the atmosphere starts to kick in. With all the subtext and subplots, Guadagnino does avoid outright pretension and that helps keep the film from imploding from taking itself too seriously, which some may feel it does. The cinematography is quite the opposite of Argento’s vibrantly colored set pieces, with the colors here being muted and the set and costume design far more grounded till things start to delve into the supernatural in the last act.

The cast is another plus. Johnson is good as Susie. She is a bit more mysterious than Argento’s heroine and the actress again shows she is fine with daring roles. Thankfully here she is given more to work with than those awful Shades of Grey movies. Tilda Swinton is mesmerizing both as Madame Blanc and in a very impressive performance as Dr. Josef Klemperer. Unfortunately, Klemperer’s character and subplot could have been removed completely and not done harm to the story, though it would have robbed us of seeing Swinton in a very unconventional part. In support we have a solid performance by Chloe Grace Moretz as a student that alerts Dr. Klemperer to the shady goings on at the academy and a likable Mia Goth as Sara, a student who befriends Susie. The rest of the cast are fine and do efficient work as minor supporting and background characters.

This remake does enough of it’s own thing to not fall under the unnecessary banner. There are some gruesome and grotesque moments and some disturbing and unsetting scenes that effectively chill. The cast do very good work, especially Swinton and the flick can be atmospheric at times. What keeps this from really being something special is that there are a lot of details added to what was a simple story and they don’t really enhance that story or add any depth or resonance. The film can be bland at times, when not focusing on the supernatural elements and some of the detailed subplots simply make the film longer and not necessarily better. Intriguing and worth watching once, but not something one feels the need to revisit again like Argento’s film. Keep an eye out for original star Jessica Harper in a cameo and stay through the credits for one last bit of spookiness.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 broken bones…you’ll know the scene when you see it. OUCH!










Horror films are loved all over the world and while Halloween seems to be primarily an American custom, that doesn’t mean you can’t add some international titles to your Halloween viewing list! Here are ten suggestions to get you started!


(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)


Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  7. VIY

-MonsterZero NJbars



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I’m going to be completely honest here and I know many will disagree with me, but I am not a big fan of Dario Argento. I find his flicks to be more silly than scary and he hasn’t made a movie worth watching since the 80s. His earlier works, however, are spooky and stylish and the guy sure knew how to frame a shot in those days. His early works, such as his most famous, Suspiria, are dripping with atmosphere and the soundtrack from this 1977 Italian classic is one of horror’s best, courtesy of Goblin. So, while Argento is not a favorite of mine and neither are his films, Suspiria is spooky, gory and atmospheric enough to be a perfect fit for the Holloween season and thus does find it’s way onto the playlist, especially on a cloudy, gloomy day like today. So…it finds itself played every year at this time and thus earns a spot on the Halloween Favorites list despite not truly being a personal favorite of mine. Ah… the magic of Halloween.

Suspiria is really very simple in terms of plot. It’s somewhat eccentric story finds a young American women, Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) traveling to attend a dance academy in Germany, but finding herself surrounded by some strange events and occurrences almost at the moment of her arrival. As Suzy begins to look into the strange goings on, the bodies keep bloodily piling up. The pretty young woman comes to believe the school is run by a coven of witches and she may be their next victim. The film is the first in Argento’s 3 Mothers trilogy followed by Inferno in 1980 and then almost 30 years later with The Mother Of Tears in 2007… which was pretty awful, in my opinion.

Again, I find this flick more silly than scary, but even I can’t deny it’s loaded with spooky atmosphere and the cinematography by Luciano Tovoli is absolutely sumptuous and adds lots and lots of spooky atmosphere. Film is written by Argento and Daria Nicolidi and is based on a series of essays by Thomas De Quincey called Suspiria de Profundis. Argento certainly creates a beautiful canvas and he also has a disturbing talent for setting up some inventive and gruesome kills. But otherwise, the film itself is rather silly with weak dialog and no real suspense or scares until the admit-tingly spooky last act when Suzy finally meets the witches in question in their lair hidden within the school. Obviously, the score by Goblin adds a lot, too, as it is one of the best scores in horror film history and is certainly quite effective in administering goosebumps all on it’s own. So, overall the film works far better than it should due to it’s creepy packaging far exceeding the power of it’s somewhat weak story and screenplay…but something tells me the actual scripted page was not Argento’s top priority anyway here. He always seemed to be more about style than substance.

As for the acting, the cast…star Jessica Harper included…seem to wander through the film looking lost and confused. They recite the weak dialogue very woodenly and the unnatural effect a lot of the stiff acting gives the proceedings actually works in the film’s favor, somewhat, as it is a supernatural tale after all. The dubbing doesn’t help either, but the film appears to have been filmed in english with everything dubbed in later as were a lot of Italian films back then.

So, this film is considered a classic by many and I recognize that and respect it’s place in horror history despite my not being all that endeared to it. I do agree that when you combine Argento’s visual eye with his skill for creating disturbing and bloody kills along with it’s classic score by goblin, the film certainly makes for a fun Halloween season watch even if it is not a favorite. Personally I have always preferred Fulci, but understand why Argento has his fans…at least when it comes to his earlier films.

3 horrified Harpers!

Suspiria rating