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Suspiria Review – Shocking, Character Driven Performances Carry This Supernatural Horror Drama

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Suspiria, from Amazon Studios, presents a story of the ageless battle of good verses evil as a coven of witches seek to find the one who has come to breathe life into them and inherit her rightful place.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, Suspiria stars Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloe Grace Moritz, Angela Winkler, Alek Wek, Elena Kokina, Mikael Olsson, Fred Kelemen, Sylvie Testud, Ingrid Caven, Clementine Houdart, Christine Leboutte, Vincenza Modica and Marjolanie Uscotti.

The film begins in a divided Germany, circa 1977, at the office of a psychologist of Dr. Josef  Klemperer, played by Tilda Swinton, and a young girl, Patricia, played Chloe Grace Moretz, who is obviously disturbed. A heightened level of stress, and what becomes obvious in the short time we see her something supernatural has happened to her at her ballet conservatory.

She runs out of the Doctors office leaving a diary, a journal, depicting many satanic symbols and what appears to be attempts to analytically find the key or work out the mystery enough to see the signs when they appears so to stay away and not become them.


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Walking up the steps, a girl enters the conservatory and is greeted by Miss Tanner, played by Angela Winkler, and explains she is Susie Bannon, played by Dakota Johnson, and is here for her audition. After the preliminary questions, she is taken to the studio.

Miss Millius, played by Alek Wek, Miss Tanner watch the girl from Ohio perform a modern dance audition. The force of her movements and the connection she had seemed to awaken the spirits waiting for the one who would usher in a new era.

For those who understand the signs, the dance audition brought acceptance from the one waiting and drew Madame Blanc, played by Tilda Swinton, a former prima ballerina who is the star instructor, to the room.

The next day, the audience finally sees the first true and tangible indication of what is actually behind the facade of the conservatory. The dance of the protagonist, whom Susie chooses to dance, which brings the spirit world to life and moves in force against those who would attempt to stop them.

Slowly we discover the methodology of Madame Blanc, who as the draw for the conversatory also preps the chosen one, or grooms the student, she is talented, yes, to Madame Blanc she is perfection with a few rough edges, as a performer she is available, to Madame Blanc, who has increasingly become seduced by her talent and not so quick to have her sacrificed, she has a rare gift and cultivating the gift becomes the push/pull as the others want to move quickly to satisfy those who wait.

Our psychologist, Dr. Joseph, whom we met in the beginning of the film has become increasingly concerned about Patricia, and decides to first go to the conservatory, where he is dismissed and then to file a missing persons report. The detectives are actually like ever other detective and are waiting for the person reporting the situation to prove the case, to lay all the cards out, to pull as mush information as they can and then dismiss the filer with the usual disregard.

There are many thing about Suspiria that are done well. Obviously, the cast provides stunning, formidable and thought provoking performances. Tilda Swinton, once again shows a depth both in the reserved and refined Madame Blanc and more importantly the other persona she had been cast to play. Her portrayal of Dr. Josef Klemperer is powerful. She is impressive, a force and continues to push the envelope.

Of course, Dakota Johnson, who continues to take on roles that move her past a passing fancy to real strength and real talent able to take meaty roles and require her to keep her clothes on, and deliver solid, emotional charged performances. She handles the technical aspect of the modern dance movements.

Suspiria wouldn’t be the film it is without the supporting cast. Each of the dancers, the instructors and others brought strength to the film and roles.

There were many things about the film that were done well. Luca Guadagnino clearly marked the time, the audience understood the era they were living in, there was no question as to time and he used news reports to support that season of civil unrest.

And even further the spirit world, without having the opportunity to speak with him, the idea of sending and receiving dreams and conversations, which play heavily in the film, are done well with a collage of geometric, psychedelic waves, representing the transmission of thoughts and ideas.

Throughout the film our sleuth, Sara, played by Mia Goth, had been trying to find evidence and when she does we finally see the waiting place, where those who were sacrificed before her are waiting. The inability to escape is hampered by violent mutilations.

The finality holds another of Ms. Swinton’s roles in the film as she takes on the undead, grotesque character Markos. The film is a matter of tastes. It is clearly satanic, and doesn’t shy away for the satanic expression and doesn’t project as much evil as has been shown in other films.


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There is a gratuitous nudity, as the ultimate sacrifice scenes call for the nearly all female cast to be nude. And of course, the very graphic and bloody ending. I felt like a director of Luca Guadagnino’s caliber cheated a bit by utilizing the same method of termination for the detractors. If it were a second film it would be a sequel, as it is in the same five minutes it is overkill.

Expect Suspiria to be around during awards season as Ms. Swinton should receive a suppportng nomination for her portrayal of Dr. Josef Klemperer.

Suspiria held my attention throughout the entire film. It is a supernatural horror film with a well told, story and strong character driven performances by an exceptional cast.

Suspiria, which has played at every major film festival to much acclaim, opens in select US cities Friday, October 2018. See it.

 

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