There’s so much to love about Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo horror film Suspiria: the oversaturated color palette of neon pinks and purples; the melodramatic, opulent gore (impaling by stained glass, so fancy!); Goblin’s twinkling score; and viscerally disturbing images of stuff like maggots falling from the ceilings, which will never not make me frantically comb my fingers through my hair. The whole thing feels like a tormented fever dream—intoxicating and at times barely coherent. But that’s why it’s great. Argento’s Suspiria sucks you in and traps you within, woozy and disoriented from some unknown spell.
Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino’s reinterpretation of Argento's film is a precisely choreographed mindfuck, and progressing through the film’s six acts feels like peeling off layers of an onion until you reach the reeking core. It’s swift, brutal, and breathtaking, but it’s also frequently bogged down by overcomplicated subplots and distracting details.
The original premise remains the same—ancient ballerina witches trying to live forever by sacrificing students—but this time around, the Markos Dance Academy is located right next to the Berlin Wall in post-World War II Germany, and Susie Bannion (a very meh Dakota Johnson) is a runaway Mennonite from Ohio. Whatever parallels Guadagnino hoped to draw between the traumatic aftermath of the Holocaust and the bloody chaos going on inside the coven ends up feeling more confusing than profound.
Aside from these half-baked meditations—along with the offensively bland score from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and his stupid, wiry little voice—I found plenty to enjoy in the new Suspiria: the virtuosic use of dance as body horror; Tilda Swinton acing three different roles (one while wearing old man drag); the raging sexual undercurrent between Swinton’s Madame Blanc and Susie; the artful blood ’n’ guts (prepare for meat hooks, exploding heads, contorting limbs, compound fractures, necks hemorrhaging like sprinklers, and outfits made of human hair); dream sequences packed with flashes of symbolic imagery that feel like puzzle pieces; and an appearance from Jessica Harper, who played Susie in the original film. I left Guadagnino’s Suspiria feeling both giddy and psychically walloped. It’s thrilling, but I have no idea what the point was.