Su­per­nat­u­ral hor­ror in six acts

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At first, his am­bi­tion pays div­i­dends.

Set in Cold War West

Ber­lin in 1977, we first meet an un­hinged dancer named Pa­tri­cia (Chloë Grace Moretz) ur­gently seek­ing help from her el­derly Ger­man shrink Dr Josef Klem­perer (played by Guadagnino muse Tilda Swin­ton, wear­ing pros­thet­ics).

Pa­tri­cia’s con­vinced the es­teemed He­len Markos Dance Academy where she’s study­ing is run by blood­thirsty witches, which Klem­perer puts down to delu­sions.

Mean­while, clean-cut Ohio dancer Susie Ban­nion (Dakota John­son) ar­rives at the academy and is quickly cast by star chore­og­ra­pher Madame Blanc (also Swin­ton) in the lead­ing role that Pa­tri­cia, who’s now miss­ing, has left open.

De­spite Madame’s mag­netic al­lure, it is soon clear that some­thing witchy is afoot; as Susie per­forms, an­other dancer Olga (Elena Fok­ina), trapped in an ad­ja­cent room of mir­rors, is flung about as if con­trolled by Susie’s dance un­til her body is grue­somely bat­tered and snapped.

It’s a spec­tac­u­larly ghastly scene, one that Guadagnino, aided by a mourn­ful score by Ra­dio­head’s Thom Yorke, doesn’t man­age to repli­cate there­after.

Guadagnino con­tin­u­ally makes ref­er­ences to the BaaderMein­hof gang, a threat on Ber­lin’s streets that pre­sum­ably mir­rors the academy’s in­ter­nal dan­gers. But the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil is not co­her­ently tied to the plot and feels su­per­flu­ous, as do other un­nec­es­sar­ily com­plex sub-plots.

And on it goes, a fever­ish night­mare that by its blood­soaked, bonkers, long-awaited end­ing drowns in its own unadul­ter­ated pre­ten­tious­ness.

At its best Sus­piria mes­merises with breath­tak­ing chore­og­ra­phy (by Damien Jalet) and el­e­gant com­po­si­tions. At worst it de­liv­ers a unique and per­sis­tent form of tor­ture.

You de­cide.

The Ber­lin dance school stu­dents might be a coven of witches.

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