How do you look at a movie like Suspiria (1977) and think “You know what this needs? Less color and a more intimate soundtrack. And also it needs to be at least an hour longer”? Because that’s what this is. Just after the trailers play and the logos announce who made the movie, a title card appears: Six acts and an epilogue, it says. This movie has no shame.
One of the most prominent pieces of marketing material I saw for this movie was this quote by the director, Luca Guadigno. He says that this is not an attempt to remake the 1978 Giallo film, but to recreate the feelings he had when he first saw that movie. And look, I don’t want to read too much into that -- like, drawing one-to-one comparisons between the two films gets pretty difficult pretty quickly -- but it does open up the possibility of a new label for this sort of movie: the “spiritual companion piece”.
Still, though, an hour longer? Before I’d seen both movies, I had to wonder, what got added in that extra hour that justifies itself in some way. The answer, I think, lies in the extension of some of the original movie’s themes. For example, Suspiria (1977) goes out of its way to mention that Helena Markos was a Greek Immigrant to Germany, and was shunned by the locals for fear that she was a witch. The 2018 film expands this to set the film specifically in West Germany post-World War II and introduces a subplot involving a character looking for their partner after the war separated them.
A lot of the movie, then, goes out of its way to present itself as the more mature option, from its own “kills”, to its muted aesthetic, to how it’s mentally aged up its characters. But at the same time, changing the plot like this reinvigorates the mystery to those who have seen the previous movie.
Susie, Sarah, Olga, Markos, these characters are all here. But they’re in a whole different movie, and I noticed as I watched these films back-to-back, they complement each other really well. Whether you want a sometimes-too-long dirge about the holocaust or a bright and colorful mystery slasher, Suspiria is there for you.
Next time: This is a little awkward. The intention was to talk about Robert Eggers’ new movie, The Lighthouse as a comparison to The Witch (hence the “reflections” theme) but it looks like I miscalculated. I’ll still talk about a horror movie next week, but now I need to figure out what.