HORROR; 1hr 12min (English and German with subtitles)
STARRING: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Josef Klemperer, Chloë Grace Moretz
Tiny dancer: Johnson (right) girds her loins
Veering dramatically from the buttery embrace of 2017’s Call Me By Your Name, director Luca Guadagnino drenches his reinterpretation of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror milestone in the bleakest and wettest possible light. And if his Cold War–era Berlin is miserable (which you’d better believe it is), beneath their chilly sheen, the halls of the globally acclaimed Helena Markos Dance Company are its witchy hub of ill-will.
Ohio naïf and potential sacrificial lamb Susie Bannon (Fifty Shades’ Johnson, dancing as fast as she can) knows nothing of what she’s gyrating into at first. She fails to twig—and why in the netherworld would she—that in their off-duty hours, the company’s queenly artistic director, Madame Blanc (long-haul Guadagnino collaborator Swinton, magnetic as per), and her coterie of campy “Mothers” are a diabolical coven. (Unlike Susie, we squirmers in the cheap seats are left in no doubt about this regrettable state of play, courtesy of a horrifying dance sequence in Act Two.)
Mix in a suspiciously missing dancer (Moretz, tearing into what little time she has), more rain, Susie’s mentally transmitted nightmares, a meddlesome psychiatrist (Klemperer) who really should have kept his suspicions to himself and Madame Blanc’s increasingly mixed agenda, and the thickening pall of dread is as palpable as a shroud.
“Suspiria de profundis” is a Latin phrase meaning “sighs from the depths,” which even if you haven’t seen the original, gives you a fair idea of where Guadagnino is going. His portentous treatment of David Kajganich’s screenplay will probably be a cinch for lofty archetypal dissections so beloved by the cognoscenti. But if striking a word pose isn’t your thing, for sheer say-what? spectacle, the batty denouement in the witches’ parallel world should help to seal the infernal deal. It’s a scene so operatically grotesque and balls-out preposterous that only a master of chutzpah could begin to pull the madness off.