I know, I know. I just spent the past month giving my thoughts on 31 horror films. Why would I want to return so quickly to the dark & macabre? Real reason, I can’t escape the pull and when there is a new horror film in theaters I am drawn to it. And even more of a pull for me are remakes of fan favorite films. Suspiria happens to be both.
Suspiria is directed by Luca Guadagnino and is a remake of the surreal 1977 Dario Argento film of the same name. Guadagnino takes the basework for the first of Argento’s Three Mothers movies and runs with it, making this Suspiria something that stands alone. And that is a good thing because Argento’s Suspiria is a weird film. Visually aresting but at times so much so that it loses its narrative thread.
Taking place in Cold War Berlin, right at the Berlin Wall to be exact, the film chronicles an American dancer, Suzie (Dakota Johnson), as she joins a renowned dance company. Not all is as it seems at the company though with the matron’s led by lead choreographer, Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), actually belonging to a coven of witches that feed off of the power and strength of their dancers.
Guadagnino’s Suspiria looses the bright surreal color and its dreamlike camerawork in favor of a more muted palette and a cold, almost clinical camerwork. In doing this though, Suspiria is able to relay a much tighter narrative. Put it this way, I’ve seen Argento’s Suspiria a few times over the years and I always struggle to pull the narrative together, in this film, I was able to follow along much better.
That isn’t to say Guadagnino’s approach is better (although honestly, it is) because he doesn’t utilize subtlety or intention in the same way. Instead the new Suspiria weilds its narrative and supernatural elements like a sledgehammer. There is no guessing what is going on, well at least until the final act where everyhing falls apart in a nightmarish mess.
For five acts, Suspiria tells a subdued horror story that has some gruesome imagery but always manages to stay grounded, even in the face of its supernatural elements. But then the final act comes in to play and the film loses it. Over-the-top gore, violence, ugly monster designs, and naked dancing all come together in the weirdest moments I’ve experienced this year.
The thing is, what comes before doesn’t elevate it to a whole new level that the sixth act becomes a letdown. No, it just gets weird, like the original film but with less subtlety. So long story short, Suspiria, still weird.
My next film has none of the draws of Suspiria did, in fact it was only because the rental period was set to expire that I gave it a go. That film is Housewife.
Housewife, like director Can Evrenol’s Baskin, is a surreal horror experience. Unlike the new Suspiria, Housewife revels in its visual delivery that blurs reality and dreams.
Housewife starts off with a terrifying encounter between a mother and her two daughters. At first we are led to think that the visitors that the mother is seeing, while Daddy is away, are lovers of a sort but very quickly we learn that something is amiss. The mother is crazy, or so it seems, and the younger daughter, Holly, barely escapes with her life. This encounter has haunted Holly (Clementine Poidatz) since then and she now pees anywhere but a toilet because of that night. It has also made her wary of becoming a mother as she is afraid she will become her worst nightmare and unleash something hidden on her own children.
Amidst all this, things start to get interesting. A traveling company called The Family come to town and their big draw is a charasmatic seer named Bruce (David Sakurai), who can enter your dreams and provide you with enlightment. It seems like a scam but after being picked from the audience she goes on a wild trip but comes back feeling like all her fears have been stripped away. And then the ghosts start showing up, and a creepy cult, and cosmic Lovecraftian monsters. It gets pretty crazy and gory and weird, all of which are good things and I was certainly entertained throughout.
Housewife ultimately ends up being a little more style than substance, but like Baskin, which suffers from a bit of the same, Evrenol is able to capture the viewer with his imagery. He pulls you through the ridiculous parts, and both Baskin and Housewife have their fair share, by shocking you and making you question what you are seeing. Unfortunatley the ending just didn’t stick for me and that detracted from my overall enjoyment of it, although I will say, the end credit theme is hot stuff.