‘Suspiria’ review: Dakota Johnson marvels in remake of Dario Argento film


Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth

Rated R

The filmmaker Luca Guadagnino re-imagines the seminal Dario Argento horror movie "Suspiria" as something out of the darkest depths of Hieronymus Bosch’s imagination in this remake, hitting theaters in 2018 with a pronounced commitment to bringing an art house aesthetic into the multiplex.

That in itself makes the movie an object of fascination — it is resolute in its elliptical use of strange spectral phenomena, unafraid to be expressive and flamboyant just like the ballet dancers at its center, while exuding such wholesale confidence in its supernatural vision that there is no rush to explain away every last detail.

Dakota Johnson gives her most mysterious and engaging performance yet as Susie, an American prodigy who has arrived at the prestigious Markos Dance Academy in Cold War Berlin, circa 1977. She immediately impresses the instructors, particularly Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton, who also plays two other roles in a collective performance that truly must be seen to be believed), and is cast in the central role of the company’s next production.

Under ordinary circumstances, this would be an exciting moment, one worthy of celebration in any young dancer’s career, but these are far from ordinary circumstances: the instructors are in fact a coven of witches, operating under the most thin of fronts against the tumultuous backdrop of the German Autumn.

Guadagnino, working from a screenplay by David Kajganich, pays explicit attention to the events outside the academy’s door, but the geopolitical allusions never quite congeal into something cohesive. The movie is intermittently successful in its circling around particularly German strains of guilt and regret — and the ways they metastasize into obsession — but it does not get to the point where you’re absorbed into the picture on a greater level.

It is primarily a visceral, unsettling experience, one that remains somewhere out of total grasp but nonetheless clear in the notion that a strange, terrifying and altogether meaningful awakening is occurring inside Susie within the Markos walls.