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MOVIES: (LFF 2018) Suspiria - Review

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You are not ready. You are so, so not ready for the awesomeness that is Suspiria.

A remake of Dario Argento's classic Italian horror film of the same name, Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino chooses to use the source material as inspiration for a mostly entirely new storyline rather than opting for a shot-for-shot adaption, which feels like an incredibly refreshing choice. This allows for maximum creativity and unpredictability in an experience that turns out to be one of the best films of the year to date, and arguably provides something that's almost - if not quite as good as the original film, which is certainly saying something.

Guadagnino is surpisingly restrained in his approach, going for subtlety rather than excessive gore and horror. Don't get me wrong, there is gore and horror here, and lots of it, but Guadagnino carefully picks his moments to unleash them on the audience, avoiding cheap jump scares in favour of something that is far more nuanced and clever. Everything that mother! lacked in subtlety, Suspiria made up for in droves, always opting to show rather than tell, and although it is likely to be as divisive to the general audience as mother! was, it is defiently the superior film out of the two.

Dakota Johnson's Susie Bannion is a young, talented dancer who has travelled from America during term-time to Berlin to join the legendary Markos Dance Academy despite a lack of formal education. Despite this she clearly has talent, or at least - enough to impress Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). But almost immediately after her arrival she notices that there are things that are clearly off about the place, her predecessor Patricia Hingle went missing the day before her arrival, and a Russian student Olga accuses that the teachers, her three mothers, are witches, and that Patricia was right, tearfully storming out of the room.

It is certainly an unsettling start that only develops further into mystery. Suspiria is a film that knows how to establish its atmosphere and create a growing sense of uneasy dread, establishing from the word go that something is clearly wrong about the Academy. There are secret passageways, and bad things keep happening to the students. But it is so much more than just your typical horror, going against genre conventions and cliches in favour of an experience that echoes The Witch and Hereditary.

The colour palette is another element that is surprisingly muted in regards to Suspiria. Rather than bounce off the screen like Argento's original, it keeps things subdued until the last act, which is all kinds of crazy in all the best way. This is a decision that works as it is one of the many things that helps give Guadagnino's take entirely its own voice. The soundtrack is all kinds of unique, Radiohead's Thom Yorke delivers a memorable first film score that will hopefully not be his last. It's something that fans of the band will love and fits the tone and mood of the film pretty much perfectly.

The cast is fantastic. Dakota Johnson stands out as the lead, and Tilda Swinton shines too as multiple characters, playing not only Madame Blanc, but also as an unrecognisable under prosthetic as an old male Doctor of Patricia's, who has the guilt and shame of his actions in World War Two hanging over his head. What is interesting to note about Suspiria is that it is a role where she was originally credited as actor Lutz Ebersdorf before the news properly broke, and it comes as no surprise that both of these performances show Swinton at the top of her game.

Suspiria is a jaw-droppingly good film that feels more like a psychological drama than a straight-up horror film. It's smart, subtle and intricate from start to finish, emerging as one of the best that the genre has to offer. It's understandably not going to be for everyone, but it will rightly earn a passionate and devout fanbase and will be a favourite for many of this particular year.

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