Suspiria: Venice Film Review

I became aware of Luca Guadagnino thanks to his excellent films A Bigger Splash and Call Me By Your Name, so I was naturally going to check his remake of the 1977 Italian horror film Suspiria, even though that genre isn’t my bag and it’s not the sexy romance film I know him for. And I’m glad I did, because he has just nailed it again.

Guadagnino teams up once again with A Bigger Splash stars Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton. Johnson plays Susie Bannion, an American girl who enrols in Markos Dance Academy in Berlin in the 1970s. One of the students, Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz), has recently disappeared and Susie is conveniently given her lead role in an upcoming performance by the boss Madame Blanc (Swinton). After a series of mysterious disappearances, student Sara (Mia Goth) and psychologist Josef Klemperer (Swinton in prosthetics) begin to realise the school harbours dark, dangerous secrets.

It may have the same general premise as the original and feature some of the same characters, but this version is very different, especially in terms of plot points, character arcs and the ending. If you think you know what’s going to happen you are in for a shock and surprise. I like that Guadagnino has remained true to the heart of the original but created something very new and fresh.

Modern horror fans may be disappointed to learn that this takes an old school approach and does not rely on cheap jump scares. It’s main purpose isn’t to scare – it’s to tell a supernatural story which contains a lot of shocking, disgusting moments. I didn’t feel scared, but I was pretty horrified. The film is still set in the ’70s and the violent, bloody horror, particularly the freaky final chapter, really remained me of old European horrors. You don’t see scenes like that anymore – it was wild and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Johnson was a fine lead – she looked gorgeous and nailed her weird, creepy, possessed dances – but the others were far more interesting. Swinton had the perfect look for this role and played the spooky character wonderfully, as expected, but I was also impressed by Goth, whose work I don’t know too well, as she is our eyes into that world, and Moretz, who had to convincingly portray a student gone crazy in a short amount of time. Her German was good! But my favourite was Ebersdorf who played such a sweetheart and the one I cared about the most.

I was also surprised to learn during the credits that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke did the original score, which is cool. I wish I had more to say about the score other than it was suitably creepy and tension-building.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the wild ride of Suspiria. It’s pretty gross, but there is also a strong, compelling story to back it up. It doesn’t get too much until the end, which is pretty overwhelming. It also doesn’t feel like it’s almost two and a half hours long – which tells you everything.

Set for limited US release in October

SEE ALSO: My pics of Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton at the Suspiria LFF premiere


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