6. The contemplative pacing
The remake of Suspiria is almost an hour longer that its predecessor, but the extra runtime isn’t merely an exercise in vanity or excess style. This new film has more to say, and isn’t ashamed of it. Even if the extra details of plot and character aren’t strictly necessary, they’re included here to serve the story, and they never feel pedantic.
Part of the magic of Argento’s Suspiria was that so much was left unsaid and unseen. The viewer felt immediately immersed in the middle of a witch’s nightmarish spell already in motion, with no explanation possible or necessary.
Guadagnino’s film feels no less terrifying, but takes a more realistic approach to explaining the causes of current events. Personal interactions that were only implied in the original are here given room to breathe, and the psyches of the characters are on full display.
The furious, breathless pacing has been replaced with meditative, curious camera work which gives the viewer plenty of time to consider what is being shown on screen. The cinematography here is brilliant, and the framing of shots is both intuitive and creative. Be prepared for a longer film, but also be prepared to enjoy every extra minute.
7. An appropriately minimal musical score
In 1977 Suspiria’s soundtrack assaulted our ears, but in 2018 it chose to beguile them. The bombastic, driving music by Goblin has been updated with a wonderfully moody score by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who wrote, sang, and played for the film.
However, this is no relaxing meditation music. The minimal score is just as unnervingly effective as the excessive one, but the tension that it creates gets under your skin instead of in your face.
Consistently loud music would not have played well over the new Suspiria’s longer runtime, and so the haunting choices fit the mood and keep us ill at ease. But, the remake isn’t without a few heart-pounding musical moments. The dance numbers and the final climactic scenes contain enough energy to provide viewers with an appropriate dose of emotional extremes.
8. A reimagined setting
The Suspiria remake has kept the elite dance academy in Germany, but moved its location from Freiburg to Berlin. The year remains 1977, when the original film was made, and the new one depicts a restless Berlin still in the throes of the Cold War. The tragic conflicts of the 20th century still seem thick in the air in the remake, and the conscience and anxiety of a divided nation is explored in more socially conscious detail.
The dance school itself has been reimagined to fit the tone of 2018’s remake, and the change helps provide this Suspiria with its independent identity. Argento’s Tanz Dance Academy was exactly the kind of place one would expect to find in the middle of a waking nightmare. Its geographical relationship to its neighborhood was always vague at best, and the school seemed to exist as its own private microcosm.
This new one looks and feels like just another building on the street. No thunder claps are heard when the threshold is crossed, but the place still manages to seem eerie and dark. This choice by the filmmakers contributes to the overall realistic feel of the movie which stands in contrast to the creepy parallel universe vibe of the original.
9. A new style of terror
The 1977 Suspiria announced quite early that sharp objects would play a major role in the film; even the automatic doors at the airport slashed open and closed in a menacing way. This was no hollow warning either, as knives and barbed wire were used to chilling effect in scenes that still make us cringe today. This preoccupation with blades was a favorite of Argento’s, and he had a way of making us flinch every time a sharp object was seen – even if it never actually pierced any flesh.
2018’s Suspiria has enough pointed tips to pay appropriate homage to the original, and viewers are likely to find themselves peering at the screen through the slits in the fingers covering their eyes. But the violence and terror take on a slightly different tone in this new film.
To be blunt, there are fewer sharp objects and more broken bones. If this isn’t your cup of tea, there’s usually enough warning given to the audience for those who may want to look away. But this is an occasionally violent film, and audiences have had some extreme reactions to its more gruesome scenes. You’ve been warned.
10. A shattering climax
If any description you may have seen of the new Suspiria has you worried that it’s a slow-moving film, its final scenes wait with gleeful anticipation of proving that they were worth the wait. This film absorbs all of the extra energy set aside by the quieter musical score and the slower pacing, then unleashes holy hell with that bottled up tension.
The muted reds seen throughout most of the movie disappear, and colors bleed onto the screen in a crimson soaked bloodbath reminiscent of the original Carrie. Some earth-shaking revelations are made in these final scenes which we will refrain from sharing here, but which are completely original to this version of Suspiria.
These additional plot points are the farthest that the remake strays from its namesake, but they are wholly appropriate for the world that Argento created. It’s a bold choice by the filmmakers, but they commit to it so completely that Suspiria’s shattering new climax earns our respect.
Author Bio: Martin Wilson is as enamored of great films as he is of tennis and classic literature. As often as possible, he slips the surly bonds of North Carolina to go gallivanting around Europe with his lovely wife, who correctly reminds him that addressing his audience as “gentle reader” is not as clever as he thinks it is.