Tom Jolliffe looks ahead to the Suspiria remake…
Remakes or reboots. The year is 2018 and we’ve firmly established that the movie making engine runs largely off these, as well as sequels and adaptations. If it’s been done once to a degree of success and cult appeal, then why not do it again?
It would be a mistake to say that remakes are inherently awful. To remake something requires a level of cult appeal in the first place, and thus the studio notion that there will be an audience again. The truth is most remakes or reboots are terrible. Sometimes they do get it right though. John Carpenters, The Thing is an all time classic. It was a remake. This was even in an era when many remakes were known for being pale imitators of the original source. Since the turn of the century though, the amount of reboots has gone through the roof.
Now, like a lot of movie fans, I have favourites. Certain films where the very notion of a remake makes me want to put my head in the oven and turn the gas on. I love The Crow. I love Highlander. For years and years now both have been getting prepped for rebooting. Thus far it hasn’t materialised. The problem with most remakes is this; They take something so unique, so much its own entity. The Crow was this. Highlander was definitely a one off (the first film, laden with Queen, epic shots and transitions and a dash of barminess). Then instead of doing something that still feels markedly unique (in a different way) they decide to ‘modernise’ it. Which is to say, just make it thoroughly conventional. Like its come off a production line. I point you to the recent Robocop and Total Recall reboots. Where the originals are distinctly drenched in Verhoeven excess, heady mixes of humour, satire, debauchery and extreme violence, the reboots were just mediocre. It’s like having a ‘conventional’ dial in your editing suite and turning it to 11. Almost every recent horror reboot has been the same.
So, I love Dario Argento’s Suspiria. It is a work of unique, macabre, playful brilliance with a visual palette so dialled to the extreme that it creates a dazzlingly immersive and believable world where the events take place. It’s un-remakeable. The very thought of remaking Suspiria in Hollywood fills me with the sense of dread one gets when you arrive home to an expectant wife (holding a knife) and realise you’ve forgotten what she asked you to pick up in the morning. You just know what comes next will not be good. Then it happened…they decided to remake it. ‘I’m never ever gonna watch that’ I boldly (and stubbornly) proclaimed. Then they announced the cast. Tilda Swinton is always a bonus point. Never less than amazing in anything. ‘Okay. The cast is good…still not going to watch it though.’ Then the trailer hits.
Wow…that blew my Jane Horrocks off. In the best possible way. Granted it’s only a trailer but everything about it suggests the best possible approach to remaking a beloved horror classic. Director Luca Guadagnino comes fresh off Oscar recognition for Call Me By Your Name. So he’s not just any old job-smith director. He’s got chops. He’s also Italian. He can infuse this with a distinct ‘Italian horror’ feel, whilst having the capabilities to give this remake its own unique feeling (hopefully). The trailer has just enough homage to the original but the style of horror is different. It’s certainly got some Giallo there, and a few dashes of Argento, but it’s also got some Friedkin. It’s got distinct European sensibilities there too. Not just Italian horror but you can see French, German and Northern Euro influence splattered over the frames too. In fact the trailer was that good it frightens me a little. What if I have to admit to liking this more than the original after I’ve seen it?
Given the cast and crew and what the trailer promises, it’s not out of the realms of possibility. It’s a little unlikely. There’s a definite sense of going for the uncanny. The unnerving. To likely create a relentless sense of dread throughout, culminating in crescendos of horrific imagery (not just bloody but creepy as hell). Those kind of horrors can often be muted with re-watches when you know how things play out and the tension levels slowly relent with every re-watch. Argento’s technicolor master work on the other hand is majestic eye (and ear) candy. It’s so gloriously dialled up, with touches of camp that you can watch it again and again without losing the magic. Even that opening death scene is so macabrely over the top, it remains one of the greatest Horror openings ever. We shall see just what transpires with Guadagnino’s version. It looks darker, more serious, probably more intense.
The approach is distinctly non-Hollywood. If a film like Suspiria is known predominantly for its visual style, then you cannot do the same. As discussed previously, you also can’t make it look like a production line churn out either. It has to look great, and by God does the remake look great. Stark, muted colours and Gothic visuals. It has the colour coding littered throughout that we know from the original, but without drawing the eye immediately to it. The music accompanying the trailer is harsh, piercing and less than harmonious, opting for vicious use of orchestral strings rather than the Synth of Goblin that layered Argento’s film so wonderfully. Again, it’s a different approach that makes the film feel distinct. If that is their musical approach come the final film, then it certainly works.
There we have it. In the space of a trailer I’ve gone from hissing like a cat and putting my fingers together to mark the sign of the cross at the prospect of this, to it being one of my most anticipated films left in 2018. It may well transpire that I have space in my Blu-Ray collection for two Suspirias. There’s a big legacy to overcome, and there’s also the fact that it comes in the same year as something as genuinely disturbing and unnerving as Hereditary. If Guadagnino’s film is remembered in five years, then he will have delivered the goods. Anything less than stellar and it is forgotten before the UK leaves Europe officially.