Director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, Call Me By Your
cast his remake of Suspiria — set in Berlin in 1977, the same year Dario Argento made his delirious supernatural frightmare — more as a re-imagining. Guadagnino uses only the rudiments of the original story to tell an entirely new tale of horror that plays out in six parts plus an epilogue.
Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson, who is mesmerizing every moment she’s on the screen), a sweet, seemingly naïve Mennonite from Ohio, escapes her strict religious upbringing to follow her passion for dance. She arrives in Berlin to attend the academy of the prestigious Helena Markos Dance Company amid the height of the Baader-Meinhof militant crisis. Beneath her veneer of innocence lies a fierce determination and intelligence. At first, she lives a charmed life at the dance school. She rises quickly in the ranks, nailing the lead in the school’s signature dance. Susie soon finds herself being groomed by the esteemed instructor Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton, in one of three roles), a witch who is vying for control of a coven led by the company’s mysterious and mostly unseen Markos (also Swinton, in vile prosthetic makeup).
Susie’s arrival coincides with the disappearance of a young dancer named Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz), who was driven mad by the witches’ attempts to use her as a vessel for demonic possession in order to awaken a force of cosmic evil. The company’s cover story is that Patricia fled to join the Baader-Meinhof Group. But Patricia’s humble psychiatrist Dr. Josef Klemperer (Swinton in old man makeup), begins an investigation into her disappearance, alerted to the dance school’s strange activities by her journal entries. These tell of three dark entities: Mater Tenebrarum (Mother of Darkness), Mater Lachrymarum (Mother of Tears), and Mater Suspiriorum (Mother of Sighs) — the latter of whom is the chief concern of the coven. The reference is a nod to Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy, of which the original was