The remake of Dario Argento’s cult giallo horror Suspiria was never going to be a mainstream darling. The original was a weird fever dream that skated by on its singular aesthetic. The Tilda Swinton-starring remake from Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino had already seduced the internet into conspiratorial discussions about its cast and rabid consumption of its trailers. Now that the dance academy-set film has had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, these preliminary feelings have been backed up by critical opinion: this film is bonkers.
But at least it’s the kind of bonkers that is exciting. It’s the kind of polarizing horror that may receive as many terrible reviews as glowing ones, but also excite its fans to the point of an eight-minute standing ovation - as Deadline reports that the film earned. That ovation was from its public premiere, while the press screening (where opinion was more divided) took place earlier that day.
Here’s what the critics are saying about the bloody film:
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman called Suspiria “an extreme horror movie made by a deeply serious maestro of a director,” while lambasting the film’s story as simply “a vehicle for his timely theme, which is the rise of women.” The pontificating, the slowness - that’s all well and good, but it’s not scary enough, Gleiberman complains before concluding that, “Suspiria has been made with enough skill to get inside your head, but also with enough ominous pretension to leave you scratching it.”
Vulture’s Emily Yoshida also comments on the abilities of the director, saying that the film turns “the tale of a coven of witches who lord over an unholy dance academy in Berlin inside out.” She also praises the dance sequences, which in this film are saturated with meaning: “Dance, an extension and tool of the coven’s witchcraft, is a fortress against the other evils of the world.” The film’s lack of traditional scares only makes its impact more interesting, Yoshida argues, focusing on its strangeness. “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,” she finishes.
That sentiment is echoed by Time Out’s Joshua Rothkopf, who gives perhaps the most favorable review of the film. Rothkopf makes it clear that the film isn’t your traditional horror film - not by a long shot - but for those willing to set aside their expectations, Suspiria has a lot to offer from Guadagnino. The director makes the movie for Rothkopf, who writes that “...it’s a miracle that he seems to understand Argento’s witch-centric original on an almost molecular level—so much so that he can radically depart from it and still cast his own spell.” “Traditional horror fans won’t be pleased: Almost transgressively, Guadagnino has deprioritized the shocks, even the fear,” he writes. “But in their place, he’s pumped up the exoticism and crafted a movie you can get lost in, which is the ultimate tribute.”
But The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney wasn’t as seduced. Compared to the original, he calls the film “more muted in both palette and tone, opting for insidious weirdness over shock and gore.” He also anticipates the mixed response to the movie, writing that “some genre aficionados sure to respond to its respect for the source material while others will bemoan the relative meagerness of its fright factor.” Rooney falls in the latter category, complaining that “Suspiria feels unnecessarily drawn out, with too many discursive shifts in focus to build much tension,” though he still mentions a few glimmering moments.
And here are a few other opinions that are somewhere in between:
It remains to be seen if Suspiria will stick the landing when it hits theatrical wide release on Nov. 2.