Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked the remake of “Susperia.”
The Movie: “Suspiria” (2018)
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 65 percent
Brown: As Halloween Month comes to a close on the JOE-DOWN, we are taking a step back.
In what I think is a first for our irreverent blog, we are doing a remake of a movie we already did in “Suspiria.”
The original was unanimously praised by Froemming and I, with me stating that it may be my favorite horror movie. Froemming really enjoyed the soundtrack by Goblin.
Now, we trade that technicolor nightmare and prog-rock soundtrack with muted winter tones and Thom Yorke.
… We’re going to have things to say.
As I sit in the makeup chair with Tilda Swinton, give me your initial takes on the “Suspiria” remake.
Froemming: Oh you mean “I Have No Idea What Is Going On: The Movie?” My first take was two pronged:
- I hate reboots, especially when the original film was fine on its own.
- They replaced Goblin, which I will state again rocked my socks off, with Thom Yorke from Radiohead, a man who has apparently never heard a horror movie score or heard of rock and/or roll.
Yes, they remade an already great movie and replaced the great music with boring British croons and replaced the wild Day-Glo colors with muted mustards that are normally reserved for Wes Anderson movies.
Also, I accidentally paused this right at the beginning and saw Tilda Swinton played the old doctor, which I thought would be a spoiler. Nope. She just plays two different characters for no (REDACTED) reason.
Brown: Dude, Tilda Swinton played THREE characters. For no (REDACTED) reason. Maybe she was a fan of Eddie Murphy’s “Nutty Professor” movies?
Froemming: Oh (REDACTED) this movie!
Wow, I came in hot there. Brown, why don’t you kick this off while I prep my lethal (literally) dance moves!
Brown: The movie begins in 1977 in West Berlin. And it’s here where we at the JOE-DOWN remind you that no one who speaks German could be evil.
We see a panicked woman named Patricia come into the office of a psychotherapist named Dr. Josef Klemperer. And like you, I had my mouse over the Amazon player and it showed Tilda Swinton as the doctor. I also expected a twist that never came.
Anyways, Patricia is completely on edge and makes an insinuation that the women running her dance school are witches. Which, you know, way to give the game up early on this remake, movie. There was some mystery on what was going on in the original.
Before she bolts out into the world, fearing for her safety, Patricia sees a Freemason symbol on one of the Doctor’s books. Naturally, we here at the JOE-DOWN would like to remind you that Freemasons run the country.
Froemming: I’d rather have seen the Stonecutters’ symbol on those books.
Well, Patricia vanishes but is soon replaced with her cheaper American replacement, Susie Bannion, whose name is oddly similar to that other entity of pure evil in America, Steve “Mustard Stains” Bannon.
Brown: I had almost forgotten about Steve Bannon. I kept confusing Susie’s surname with Race Bannon from “Johnny Quest.”
Man, “Johnny Quest” feels like one of my most dated references on the JOE-DOWN.
Froemming: Somehow you got older than myself, and I am about five years your senior. Take it away, Neil!
Susie, much like in the original, has arrived from the States to follow her lousy dream of dancing, like so many art majors on college campuses across the nation, only this time our hero isn’t timid or scared or even gets poisoned by the coven here, she is simply Don Johnson’s and Melanie Griffith’s daughter in a red wig who never, ever wears a bra. She is as emotionless as Kristen Stewart in the “Twilight” movies here. EMOTE, DAMN YOU!
You brought up the ass shots in “Devil’s Rejects.” This movie topped that in the first half hour.
Brown: I keep going back and forth on Dakota Johnson’s performance as Susie. What I came to is that I think she’s fantastic in the dance segments. And to her credit, she apparently did about 90 percent of the dancing in the film. I think the way she could contort her body later in the movie was really stunning.
Between this and “Us,” weird dancing seems to be a Hollywood favorite now.
As far as interacting and delivering lines… not Kristen Stewart bad, but not great.
Froemming: This is how I saw her dancing in this movie:
Yeah, flailing your arms and body around like a full-body dry heave is not really dancing. It is more like “too many shots of vodka.”
Anywho, Susie is beginning her journey in the art of dance, and we meet Olga, who is paranoid and claiming the teachers are witches and whatnot. The teachers, because this is the 1970s, just sort of stand around smoking and looking at her kinda odd. Then Madame Blanc Klump has her sent away, where she is trapped in a murderous dance room with mirrors and is killed by Susie’s dance moves in the other studio.
Brown: We’ve seen a lot of dancing in JOE-DOWN movies, so when Susie came to the dance studio for her audition, I wanted this to be the music she danced to before the teachers said she had to dance and keep time in her head.
Sidebar: It’s actually kind of creepy to watch someone dance silently.
Froemming: This is the true story of why dancing was illegal in “Footloose.” I see this movie as the logical prequel to the 1980s Kevin Bacon hit with the foot-stomping Kenny Loggins soundtrack.
The Rev. Shaw Moore was right all along, Brown. Dancing does kill people.
Brown: There’s also a scene where we see the teachers of the school voting on who will be the group’s leader. The vote goes to Mother Markos, which is the name of the witch from the original movie.
OK movie. You know what I want in my horror/suspense movie? Mood. Scares. Periods of unease. There’s points where you accomplish that, “Suspiria.”
You know what I DON’T want in my horror/suspense movie? (REDACTED) politics between a school/witch’s coven. Did you not watch the “Star Wars” prequels and see how much all the politics made those movies a slog? You just couldn’t take a (REDACTED) lesson from George Lucas, could you “Suspiria”…
Froemming: There is also a backdrop of political upheaval going on in Germany at this time. But because this movie hits upon one of my major sins in films, subtitles, I didn’t pay much attention because I don’t watch movies to (REDACTED) read.
So Olga becomes a human pretzel, which was the one scene in this movie I did find creepy, and then the witches go and vote, which made me lose interest. Between not being able to see much because this movie is at times way too dark, literally, and the cast switching from English to German, causing me to switch gears into (REDACTED) reading mode, I was completely lost at this point in the movie.
This remake tries too hard. At what? I have no idea, but it is trying too hard to be too many things. A commentary on abuse of power? Feminism in the modern age? Dakota Johnson’s full-body dry heaves are dancing? The list is long, and maybe it could have been saved a little if THEY KEPT THE DAMN GOBLIN SOUNDTRACK.
Brown: I thought the Thom Yorke soundtrack was OK, but it wasn’t memorable like the Goblin soundtrack from the original. You probably wouldn’t think of this soundtrack if you didn’t hear Yorke singing in it.
Froemming: That is the problem with this movie: Nothing is memorable about it.
Brown: I’ll disagree with that. The way Olga was contorted and mangled in the mirrored studio is memorable. I do think Dakota Johnson’s dancing as she delves deeper and deeper into her time at the studio is haunting.
The dance costumes for the big performance are memorable… for the wrong reasons. Mostly because they make the dancers look like Sean Connery in “Zardoz.”
I do agree with you that this movie tries too hard, whether that’s in being political and being artsy. Like, we find out that Madame Blanc causes the students to have haunting dreams that may as well be film student films trying to be shocking.
It’s disappointing because there is a lot that goes right for this movie. But it’s up it’s own ass that it derails the progress it makes.
Froemming: I agree with that. There are a lot of random imagery of creepy things thrown in for effect that just seem like the director saw the original and a David Lynch movie for the first time and thought random weirdness makes for good art.
Anyway, they voted on Susie to be a host body for one of the witches, because witches are parasites? It doesn’t explain really. Just witches, once they become old, need new hosts or something.
While all this is going on, Dr. Klump (I will refer to the good doctor as this because of the “Nutty Professor” reference Brown made, and I can spell it easier than the character’s actual name) goes through Patricia’s diary and sees the scrawlings of an insane person. So, two movies this month with psychotic journals in them, thankfully this one didn’t have any murder-porn in it like Arthur Fleck’s did.
Nervous that his patient might be in trouble, he has the police look into the dance school. And it offers at least a decent laugh when they do, and Susie sees the coven has the two officers under their spell so they can make fun of their dorks.
Brown: Yeah, metal hooks around one’s genitals is never a good time. Unless you’re Pinhead. I’m doing my best to not kink shame. Hell, the Doctor has a notebook that looks like it has drawings of the Human Centipede in it.
And the fact that Susie says nothing of this twisted taunting adds kind of a creepy element. I don’t know if she was speechless or already indoctrinated by the coven yet or what.
And because why the (REDACTED) not, one of the coven named Miss Griffith — I didn’t know her name before so I wrote her name as Stabby McBifocals — takes a knife to her throat and kills herself.
Does it lead anywhere? No, not really. It was shock for the sake of shock.
But hey, enough of the bummers: Susie is gonna be a star now that she’s the lead in the dance company’s next show. Little does she know that means wearing graduation cords all over her body and dry-humping a studio floor.
I don’t get art.
Froemming: This movie in a nutshell:
Yes, they have the big dance and before it goes on, another student visits Dr. Klump wondering about Patricia and the fact Olga is missing too, I think. The doctor advises her to probably leave the school, seeing that two students have suddenly vanished in the past, what, week? She isn’t buying it, like in those “Friday the 13th” movies nobody is buying that all these teens are getting killed in the same campground every year.
So obviously Dr. Klump goes to the show on opening night. And Sara, who finally starts thinking something might be up with this whole dance school, finds Patricia all withered and whatnot, maybe from all those cigarettes she smoked, I dunno. The coven finds her and, like Tonya Harding trying to stop the competition in the 1990s, has her legs broken.
Brown: When Sara is searching through the catacombs of the school, or whatever you want to call them, I could have turned coal into diamonds with my sphincter. And Patricia being contorted and withered like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” provided an errie feeling. There was a lot of tension in that scene. And again, this movie can really get things right.
I honestly didn’t see how Sara’s legs got broke like a mob informant but it happened. All the while, the dancers are performing in front of a crowd, with a made-up Susie leading the way. With the white makeup she had on, I thought she was going to ask the teachers to introduce her as Joker.
Froemming: I don’t understand artsy dance, so this routine just gave me flashbacks from “Staying Alive,” only instead of, you guessed it, Frank Stallone, we have Thom Yorke farting around on a synth like he has since 2000.
Brown: Dude, wait until we talk about the end of this movie before we make “Staying Alive” references.
Froemming: There is never a wrong time to bring up “Staying Alive” references, and you know it.
So they are dancing the night away, and Sara comes on stage as if in a trance. How is she walking with those broken legs, I dunno, and this is even more baffling when she begins dancing. Maybe she is just one tough son-of-a-bitch. But she ends up collapsing with her bum legs, with I think the bone popping through the skin. This troubles Dr. Klump, because he is a doctor and she has a broken leg, and also because he is worried about all this witch nonsense going on.
The show is over. And it was at this point I saw there was nearly another hour left in this movie and I wanted to break my hands so we could avoid reviewing this.
Brown: Broken limbs will always get to me. I’m good without seeing compound fractures.
According to this movie’s Wikipedia, Susie and Sara’s eyes change color (I remember that) and after Sara collapses, Madame Blanc gets mad at Susie for interfering in the coven’s affairs (I… don’t remember that). This movie is confusing so sure, all this happened.
Then we see the Doctor out and about and all of a sudden runs into his wife, Anke, that went missing during World War II. Anke is played by Jessica Harper, who was Susie in the original “Suspiria.” It made me miss that Susie, who was the gorgeous doe-eyed brunette of my dreams.
Froemming: I, for one, will not objectify women in this review because I am #woke.
It was a nice callback to the original that also made me rather be watching that. But alas, here we are.
Turns out his wife was just an mean-ass prank by the coven to get him to the dance studio. Why did they need him there? No idea, maybe something about no witnesses, though all the doctor saw was a lousy dance recital. So bringing him there made no sense outside of Tilda Swinton wanting to recreate Eddie Murphy’s magic in the 1990s.
And it is here when things begin to get kind of interesting. Susie happens to come across the, you know…
Where an orgy of the damned is taking place.
Brown: This is where I wrote in my notes: This ending is what Sylvester Stallone wishes “Satan’s Alley” was at the end of “Staying Alive.” I told you we’d get back to “Staying Alive.”
Yeah… Sara and others are getting disemboweled and there’s a lot of naked people everywhere except for Madame Blanc and Susie, whom I felt Dakota Johnson made it a point to not be nude in this movie after being in the “Fifty Shades” franchise.
And in her THIRD character of the movie, we see Tilda Swinton playing Madame Markos. And she honestly looks like the fat Cenobite from “Hellraiser.”
Froemming: No need to punch down on old Butterball there, Brown.
Brown: There’s punching down and there’s being right. I’m right here, Froemming.
Froemming: So yeah, things are getting odd, Susie comes in and Madame Blanc Klump doesn’t want her to do this, because there might be a love story there that I picked up on? I dunno, but this causes Butterball to kill Blanc. Meanwhile, Dr. Klump is on an altar, naked, being mocked by some witches for losing his wife during the war.
It is Tilda Swinton’s version of the dinner scene from “Nutty Professor.”
But, things go awry because early on we were told that there may have been something not legit about Butterball moving on to a new host or whatever. We now learn that Susie is Mother Suspiria? I don’t remember what she was called, I do remember she summons up some zombie creature that goes around killing the witches one-by-one.
So, you know…
Brown: Yeah, Susie just goes around and starts blowing up heads like she’s a scanner.
Hell, I think Susie learned how to do throat rips to everyone from MacGruber.
While all the people who voted for Markos are getting blow’d up, Susie peacefully kills Olga, Patricia and Sara since they were victims.
Here, I imagine the Doctor is thinking he’s too old for this (REDACTED).
His time with Susie doesn’t end, though, as Susie visits him after he awakens from a catatonic state.
Meanwhile, we see the school is still operating (and didn’t burn down like the original) and those remaining are trying to clean up all the blood and viscera from the night before. I have no earthly idea how much club soda and elbow grease would be needed for that.
Froemming: Susie lets Dr. Klump in on what happened to his wife. She died in a Nazi camp. Her last memory was thinking about a date they went on and so she was thinking about him when she passed. Then Susie uses one of those mind sweeper devices from “Men In Black” and he remembers nothing.
*rubs temple* what was the point of telling him all that?
Brown: Because Susie is a witch and making old people weep is fun? Honestly, I don’t have a clue.
Honestly, I didn’t have a clue about a lot of this movie. Let’s go to recommendations before our legs shatter.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: I guess I would because there’s enough good to make this an interesting watch. It’s a classic case where I’d like this movie more if it wasn’t named “Suspiria.”
Froemming: No. The original is great. This one tries to be too many things, and just falls flat.