There was applause and whistling, and there were also boos and walkouts at the press screening, and so Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” premiered at the Venice Film Festival to the exact kind of reaction you’d expect a 2.5 hour brutal, gory, slow-burn arthouse horror title would get. That includes the actual premiere itself where it received an eight-minute standing ovation.
Reviews seem to be similarly split – wildly divisive with some labelling it a masterpiece, others calling it a self-serious bore. All say this new take on Dario Argento’s 1977 supernatural classic is completely different to Argento’s garishly excessive and neon-soaked fever dream original, and many are labelling it “this year’s Mother” in terms of the likely reactions. Here’s a sampling of reviews:
“‘Suspiria’ is that rarity, an extreme horror movie made by a deeply serious maestro of a director. Yet considering that it’s a remake of one of the most lavishly nutty baroque-schlock horror films of its era, you’d think Guadagnino might have wanted to lighten up. But no… The new “Suspiria” has more than touch of [Rainer Werner] Fassbinder’s astringent dryness and rigor, and a little of that goes a long way. The movie, while absorbingly crafted, is two-and-a-half hours of solemn slow-burn mystery. “Suspiria” has the virtues, but also the limits, of a lavishly cerebral high-end horror film. It holds your attention, and creeps you out at times, but it’s not scary, and it’s not really – dare I say it? – fun.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“There are smart moments of fear and subliminal shivers of disquiet, the dance sequences are good and of course Guadagnino could never be anything other than an intelligent film-maker. But this is a weirdly passionless film. The spark of pure diabolical craziness of Argento has gone, together with his brash streak of black comedy, and in its place is something determinedly upscale and upper-middlebrow, with indigestible new layers of historical meaning added.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“I love Luca Guadagnino’s grotesque, political, radically feminine interpretation… What Luca does, and frankly, what Suspiria deserves, is to turn the tale of a coven of witches who lord over an unholy dance academy in Berlin inside out. What was a pretty goal-oriented game of “escape the old crones” becomes something more impressionistic about the absurd violence of being a woman… Suspiria is a gorgeous, hideous, uncompromising film, and while it seeks to do many things, settling our minds about the brutality of the past and human nature is not one of them.” – Emily Yoshida, Vulture
“Almost certain to be the most polarizing film since ‘mother!’ split audiences between rapture and embarrassment last fall, Guadagnino’s radical new take is less a remake of the original than it is an estranged sibling. As grim and severe as Argento’s film was ecstatic and harlequin, this ‘Suspiria’ offers a richer, more explicit interpretation – [this] wicked opus ultimately cares more about the scars it leaves behind than it does the violence that caused them, or might cut them open again.” – David Ehrlich, Indiewire
“Luca Guadagnino’s elaborate Suspiria remake is a head-scratcher. The Amazon release is bound to be polarizing, with some genre aficionados sure to respond to its respect for the source material while others will bemoan the relative meagerness of its fright factor. The movie, as expected, is exquisitely crafted and rich in atmosphere. [Screenwriter] David Kajganich mined this vein far more effectively in the terrific debut season of AMC’s horror anthology series ‘The Terror’…It’s all quite aesthetically striking and yet the new Suspiria remains distancing, often borderline inert, not to mention only marginally more coherent than the original version.” – David Rooney, THR
“This new Suspiria is bland, grisly, boring and silly. There is nothing poetic or erotic about it. It’s not the fault of the actors…Guadagnino is tripped up by his own ambitions. He has made the plot and the setting insanely complicated. Even if Suspiria is at times unpleasantly grim, it’s not exactly scary.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Time
“Suspiria” opens in limited release on October 26th before going wide a week later.