“Suspiria” is a 2018 movie directed by Luca Guadagnino, who is known for “Call Me By Your Name” and his use of color and cinematography. “Suspiria” stars Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton and is based on the 1977 movie of the same name. 

Guadagnino, while known for his use of vivid color and creative use of set, sticks to a bleak color palette and sticks to a more traditional use of set. The film’s success comes with its cinematography. “Suspiria” uses a lot of sharp angles and an interesting mix of close-ups and far-away shots that make the movie feel very unsettling. The overall tone of the movie is bleak mysteriousness, which is enhanced by the slow unravelling of events. The movie is very similar to the more recent (and more financially successful) “Midsommar,” where the events of the movie are slow, yet major plot points are satisfying while also making the viewer ask themselves, “What’s happening?”.

“Suspiria” also accomplishes horror without relying on jump scares. This makes for a movie that isn’t heavy on cheap scares and instead uses more psychological scares that lead to a more satisfying climax at the end of the film. Some of the movie is just Tilda Swinton looking weird, but the feeling of not knowing what’s happening is more pronounced in very unsettling scenes. 

The movie is also set up into different acts, like a play or a ballet, which adds to the movie’s central plot of completing a dance ritual put on by the witches that run the school. The overall setup of the movie makes the movie feel less like a horror movie but more like a drama, as it also spends a good amount of time talking about backstory and historical context, with events of 1977 revolutionary Berlin framing the movie. 

Although “Suspiria” was universally praised by critics, there are some negatives to the movie. For example, the movie is about two and a half hours long, which means there are parts where it drags a little bit, and some scenes go on a little bit longer than expected. Although the movie does have a fair amount of foreshadowing that makes the narrative more interesting, some of the foreshadowing occurs in the very beginning, and by the time the events occur, the audience may have forgotten details occurring earlier in the film.

        The film’s events are also sometimes nonsensical. For example, there is one scene where Susie and Madame Blanc start speaking French to each other, seemingly out of nowhere. The movie also features Tilda Swinton as three separate roles (Madame Blanc, Dr. Klemperer, and Mother Markos) which is an interesting feature, as not a lot of actors can pull this off in the way that she did; however, it is kind of a gimmick that got a bit confusing, especially when Mother Markos takes the screen. 

Overall, “Suspiria” is a movie that is kind of underrated. While the movie swept independent movie awards, it was ultimately snubbed by more mainstream awards. “Suspiria” makes the audience question what makes for a good horror movie, as it lacks jump scares and relies more on psychological thrills and body horror, along with amazing acting performances by the cast. 

“Suspiria” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 

Tom Benoit can be contacted at

tbenoit@kscequinox.com