$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.

Movie review: Johnson, Swinton bewitching in crazed 'Suspiria'

Director Luca Guadagnino follows "Call Me By Your Name" with this wild remake of the 1977 horror tour de force

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Some will be enthralled by "Suspiria," Italian director Luca Guadagnino's cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs retelling of his countryman Dario Argento's 1977 horror classic. Others will be mystified or even repulsed. Either way, passive viewing it's not. 

Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton in "Suspiria."

Guadagnino, worlds away from last year's "Call Me By Your Name," sets his tale in an all-female dance company in West Berlin in 1977. Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) is a dancer from Ohio who joins the troupe, and slowly learns the company is run by a coven of witches. 

At the head of the troupe is Madame Blanc, played by Tilda Swinton, Guadagnino's muse from "I Am Love." (Johnson and Swinton starred in Guadagnino's "A Bigger Splash" as well). Swinton does double duty here, donning old man makeup to play psychotherapist Dr. Josef Klemperer, a performance credited to "Lutz Ebersdorf," just one panel in the film's loopy house of mirrors.  

Guadagnino shoots "Suspiria" utilizing wild, playful angles, often shooting from high above the action using what feels like the wire cameras used for NFL broadcasts. His dance sequences, set inside mirrored performance spaces, are especially dazzling, and are set against the growing sense of unease that builds to the climactic bloodbath you know is coming. 

Guadagnino, working with screenwriter David Kajganich ("A Bigger Splash"), takes on a little too much, wrapping the film in heavy political themes relating to post-war Germany. It broadens the film's context, but the extra layers feel superfluous.

Even still, one gets the sense that Argento would love every second of this moody, disquieting, daring, bonkers art film. "Suspiria" casts quite a spell.




Rated R for disturbing content involving ritualistic violence, bloody images and graphic nudity, and for some language including sexual references

Running time: 152 minutes