So…do you like interpretive dance? I sure hope so if you’re going to watch this movie because that’s about all you’re going to get out of it. That’s about the closest to a nice thing I can about it, is that I guess the dancing was well choreographed? It didn’t really do much for me personally, but I can at least tell that it was complex and well performed. Thus ends the good news.
To get to the point, this is one of those movies that wants very much to be a cult 70’s horror movie, but I’m not sure what movie it was trying to be because it wasn’t Suspiria. No, this is more like one of those trashy Satanic panic films that were 95% filler and a few minutes of graphic content thrown in at the last minute. Look, I know the original Suspiria was a flawed movie to begin with. It was a slow movie with pacing issues too, but it seems like a fast-paced action flick compared to this. This is a two and a half hour movie where almost nothing happens for the first two hours, then goes completely apeshit for about 15 minutes, and then for some reason slows back down for an excruciatingly long and slow epilogue.
I can appreciate a slow burning horror if it’s done right. Again, the original Suspiria was pretty slow moving itself, but the original made up for it with a unique atmosphere made up of beautiful architecture and cinematography, outlandish visual design that had an impressive dreamlike quality to it, and haunting, memorable music.
Here instead we have an occasional semi-interesting 70’s-horror-homage-camera-angle, but more often it’s just a lot of dull shots of dimly lit brown rooms, populated by cardboard cutout characters, seemingly driven along by a terribly unfitting soundtrack by that guy from Radiohead, which shifts back and forth between “so forgettable that it might as well not have existed” and “what the fuck, this doesn’t even remotely fit what’s happening in this scene”.
Most of the first two hours are filled up with pointless conversations about dancing delivered by utterly flat characters that have no characteristics whatsoever beyond their primary attributes of “I really like dancing” or “I’m a witch” and a bafflingly huge helping of 70’s Berlin political commentary, mostly delivered via a clumsy new subplot revolving around the past of an old man that was awkwardly played by Tilde Swinton for some reason, none of which adds anything to the main story whatsover. Great, I get it, the power of women, and uniting, and meta, meta, meta so deeeeeep…but this is all just noise when the delivery system is so dry and empty.
There’s surprisingly little in the way of actual horror in this movie too. I heard wild claims about people having to walk out of this movie because it was so disturbing, and I can only assume that this is utter bullshit made up and disseminated by some marketing team somewhere, because there is almost no graphic content at all in the first two hours. There’s one long PG-13 death scene and one more that happens so quickly and plainly that I forgot all about it until just now. I understand that there’s more to horror than flashy gruesome death sequences, but that only works when there’s suspense and mystery to string you along and I just didn’t see any of that here.
The movie excises any trace of ambiguity almost immediately, telling us right to our faces that yes, these specific characters really are witches and they’re up to no good. Ok, so we already know exactly who the bad guys are and what they’re trying to do, so now all we’re left with is to wait for them to actually get around to doing it…and they almost never do. There are an endless series of hints that something might happen eventually and there are occasional snippets of bizarre imagery in a few brief and vague dream sequences that remind me more of some old industrial music videos than anything actually approaching disturbing content and…that’s really all that ever happens.
Then there’s the part near the end when they finally get around to remembering that these witches keep saying they’re going to do something and start doing it. I’m not going to get into specifics and ruin it for you (though some may consider the following sentences minor spoilers), I’ll just say that things suddenly shift into non-stop graphic content for a good fifteen minutes or so, but it’s so over the top and self-indulgent that it just feels silly and disappointing. This is the big thing I sat through two hours of nothing for? This trashy geyser of blood and tits is the ultimate climactic flourish of this so-called intelligent, artistic film?
Fuck it, let’s just flat out talk about the actual final scene after that. Everything’s over and we can all finally go home, except wait there’s ten more minutes of exposition between the old man and another character, all about the barely present old man subplot (because we hadn’t gotten the point about the gender themes yet after the previous two hours). There’s also a really out of place joke scene tossed in out of nowhere, the one and only thing even resembling comedy in this joyless, uber-serious film, and an insultingly pretentious post-credits stinger to cap it all off. What a fucking dissonant mess.
So what do we have in the end? An arthouse political drama that’s merely pretending to be a horror movie, but one devoid of anything resembling a compelling, coherent message or character. It’s a fucking two and a half hour music video made up of vague pseudo-intellectual sentiments and directorial masturbation. You want to see something that’s almost painfully dense and impenetrable, made up of almost nothing but two to three people talking in different rooms, yet still manages to be infinitely more compelling and suspenseful than this? Go watch Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy or some old David Lynch films instead and avoid this so-called-Suspiria like the plague.