You need to watch the most twisted cult thriller on Amazon Prime ASAP
“A delusion is lies that tell truth.”
Classic horror is nigh untouchable.
You can remake Dawn of the Dead or House of Wax, but such efforts will always feel like imitations compared to the original. With a genre like horror, pushing the envelope is something that a particular story can only do once before it loses its edge.
How do you remake a horror film in a way that honors the original while keeping its shock and innovation intact?
It’s a tricky needle to thread, but this 2018 film streaming on Amazon Prime does it over and over again.
2018’s Suspiria, directed by Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino, is a remake of the classic 1977 horror film of the same name, directed by Dario Argento. While the original was at first a niche entry in the burgeoning Italian giallo genre, before it became a globally recognized classic, this remake (often described by Guadagnino as a “cover version”) adds its own unique vision and nuances over Argento’s original shock fest.
Guadagnino was inspired by Argento’s masterful use of cinematography and colors in the original film, but he also incorporated his own themes from history: generational guilt, Cold War tensions, and the 1977 hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181. What starts out as a revolutionary-minded horror movie is transformed into a tribute to revolutionary politics, as well as a meditation on a strange, liminal moment in world history.
“The combo of Dario, the Neuer Deutscher Film, the late 1970s era, and my growing interest in events of the last century all impacted on the screenplay undertones,” Guadagnino told Mubi.
The dark secret rippling through Suspiria is a death cult, operating as a dance studio. But this isn’t the only cult featured in the plot. The protagonist, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) is a transplant from a Mennonite church in Ohio. In moving to Berlin, she moves from a world where the body is flawed and shameful to one where the body is at once beautiful and a deadly tool.
Tilda Swinton also shows off her indomitable acting prowess in three different roles throughout Suspiria, each representing another extreme of the film’s spirit. As Madame Blanc, she’s a cold, demanding dance teacher with a warm, determined heart. As Mother Markos, she’s a twisting, Eldritch being seeking a new vessel. And, under the most obscuring make-up, as Dr. Josef Klemperer, she becomes an elderly point-of-view character with his own dark past.
Casting Swinton in the male lead role just underlines Guadagnino’s constant theme in Suspiria, of the power of the feminine. “Death to any other mother,” Mother Markos repeats to Susie over and over during the film’s climax. Men exist as nothing but obstacles to women’s power.
“In our version [of Suspiria], a young woman discovering what is her true identity, and what is a source of power that she is in control of, that isn’t just being given to her, but that she is the source of,” writer David Kajganich told IndieWire.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the original, this version of Suspiria is more than just a shocking horror remake. It lives in its details: the side of a building, a dark hallway, a wheezing breath. They’re small aspects of a much grander picture, but they heighten Guadagnino’s remake from a great remake to something truly radical.
Suspiria is now streaming on Amazon Prime.