Tag Archives: Dakota Johnson

Suspiria

12 Jan

‘Suspiria’: The 1970s are raised from the grave by a sophisticated crew who’ll make you wince

 

Image result for suspiria

“Suspiria,” the remake of Dario Argento’s cultish 1977 European gothic of the occult operating within secret passages of a German school of ballet gets handled with care and extra visceral crunch by fellow Italian Luca Guadagnino. Guadagnino, regarded for his nuanced takes on such critically well-received works as “Call Me by Your Name” and “A Bigger Splash,” delves into the moodiness of the horror genre with bloody aplomb. Here he and writer David Kajganich take it deeper than Argento did by adding human layers and deeper suspenseful intrigue – and by allowing Tilda Swinton to play multiple roles, including as an elder gentleman who has scenes of full-frontal nudity (no penile prosthetics were hurt in the making of this film).

The performances are spot on. Swinton, as usual, is all in. The setting is inspired as well: 1977, the same year Argento’s signature work made it onto screens, and in West Berlin against the backdrop of the Iron Curtain and Cold War, with the Red Army and Baader-Meinhof gang in full swing. Anyone can go missing at any time, and there’s myriad possible culprits, the least obvious being a coven of witches. We catch up with a harried young American named Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) who tells elderly physician Dr. Josef Klemperer (Swinton) that she’s pretty sure the ballet school she’s attending is run by witches. Shortly afterward, Patricia goes missing and Dr. Klemperer, wrestling with personal demons that root back to the Holocaust, begins to poke around and alert the police to strange doings. 

Meanwhile (and there is a lot here; the film is more than two and a half hours) the school receives a new American recruit who can dance like Salome, pleasing troupe grand dame Madame Blanc (a chain-smoking Swinton in her most recognizable countenance). New girl Susie (Dakota Johnson, fresh off “Bad Times at the El Royale”) is all alone in the world after “cutting ties” with her controlling Mennonite kin back in Ohio. Besides being a promising dancer, Susie may be the one to bear the great darkness of the coven’s ancestry. The mumbo-jumbo here doesn’t matter so much; Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” is more about ominous intrusions, eerie and immersive, and slow painful deaths that will make even the strongest wince while the ladies dishing out the meting from floors below cackle with glee. It’s an intoxicating brew right up to the gonzo Grand Guignol, when the use of red, gauzy filters help ameliorate the unrelenting gush of arterial spray. 

Guadagnino has said that he’s been wanting to make this “cover version” since he was 12. It’s unlikely that such a project ($20 million), even with such a cast and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke lending his talents, would ever gain a green light without such an accomplished auteur behind it. It doesn’t have the campy cult edge of Argento’s, but is a potent time capsule of an era that seems farther than it actually is. It’s also something of a feminist anthem. Those that run the Helena Markos School have absolute control of all within their cloistered realm. It’s a very safe place for a woman if you’re one of the indoctrinated, a chamber of horrors if you’re not. Men, for the most. are bothers, only worthy to serve as witness. It’s the mother here that’s all powerful – as with Argento, who capped “Suspiria” with “Inferno” in 1980 and 2007’s “Mother of Tears” (starring his now infamous daughter, Asia) and tagged the century-spanning witch-mythos “The Three Mothers” trilogy.

“Suspiria” is definitely not for all. Fans of Swinton, arthouse horror (think “The Witch” and “Heredity”) and the original will swoon. Those coming to see the film because of Guadagnino‘s earlier works will be in for a bloody shock.

Suspiria

1 Nov

Image result for suspiria

The remake of Dario Argento’s cultish 1977 European gothic steeped in the gory dealings of the occult operating within secret passages of a German school of ballet, gets handled with great care and extra visceral crunch by fellow Italian countryman, Luca Guadagnino. Guadagnino, regarded for his subtle nuanced human inflections in such critically well-received works as “Call Me by Your Name” and “A Bigger Splash” delves into the aural moodiness of the horror genre with bloody aplomb. Here he and writer David Kajganich take it deeper than Argento did in his witch trilogy (“inferno” in 1980 and 2007’s “Mother of Tears” starring his now infamous daughter, Asia) by adding human layers, deeper suspenseful intrigue and allowing Tilda Swinton to play multiple roles, including an elder gentleman who has scenes of full-frontal nudity (no penile prosthetics were hurt in the making of this film).

The setting is inspired as well. It’s 1977, the same year as Argento’s signature work made it onto screens, and in West Berlin as news on boxy TVs tell us the Red Army and Baader-Meinhof gang are in full swing, let alone the looming strong arm of the Iron Curtain and Cold War in dark corners. In short, anyone can go missing at anytime and there’s a myriad of possible culprits, the least obvious being a covenant of witches. At the onset we catch up with a harried young American woman named Patricia (Chloe Grace Moretz) who tells an elderly physician (Swinton as that ) that she’s pretty sure the ballet school she’s attending is run by witches. Shortly after Patricia goes missing and Dr. Klemperer wrestling with his own personal daemons that root back to the Holocaust begins to poke around and alert the police to strange doings. Continue reading

Bad Time at the El Royale

13 Oct

‘Bad Times at the El Royale’: You can check in, then suspect no one in this noir gets out alive

 

“Bad Times at the El Royale” is a knuckleball-noir, a den of thieves stuffed with double agendas. The star of the film, besides the ripped abs of Chris Hemsworth or sexy boot-wearing waif Cailee Spaeny, is the remote resort of the title, once a grand casino straddling California and Nevada (there’s a red line down the middle of the lobby, and you can drink only on the California side). It’s seen better days, but lost its gambling license. Needless to say, few people check in; by the time the movie is over, even fewer check out.

The time is the Nixon-tainted ’70s, so cellphones are not a thing, but wiretapping and one-way mirrors are. An amiable reverend (Jeff Bridges) and a backup soul singer (Cynthia Erivo) check in first. Then there’s Jon Hamm, right out of “Mad Men” as a vacuum cleaner salesman, and Dakota Johnson, who zips in Tarantino-hip in a mod model muscle car with a bound bundle in the trunk. Not everyone’s whom they pretend to be, and the skittish hotel manager (Lewis Pullman, son of Bill, excellent in a role that seems designed for the late Anton Yelchin) bears the weight of past horrors in the hotel and has demanding owners to answer to. The inn has a few secrets as well.

As the sands shift and the mother of all storms descends, the tension rises. What’s buried under the hotel? Who is the mysterious being fled by Johnson’s Emily Summerspring and her sister Ruth (Spaeny)? Plus there’s the gruesome murder of a couple nearby that we hear about over and over on TV, with the killer still on the loose. Deep Purple and some lesser-known Motown kick up the scene – something that’s needed, because at almost two and a half hours “El Royale” is nearly an hour too long (but stylish nonetheless). And though directed by Drew Goddard, whose debut, “Cabin in the Woods” (2012) was a breath of fresh air to the horror genre, the film overplays moments. The plot, which in premise bears much in common with James Mangold’s 2003 Nevada hotel thriller “Identity,” loses its enigmatic edge a little over halfway in, and many of the more likable souls perish far too soon. But fear not, everyone gets a flashback, and certain scenes get replayed from multiple POVs. They’re neat devices, but not every character comes out feeling fully sketched. 

Hemsworth, who played beautifully against his Thor persona in “Cabin in the Woods,” isn’t given much to do here as a Cali-sun god and cult leader – Jim Morrison infused with the cocky cold-bloodedness of Charles Manson. It’s a big, hammy bone, and it gets well gnawed. The camp mostly works, while Bridges and Johnson hold the fort, Spaeny and Pullman add flourishes of manic quirk and Erivo adds soul, social context and glorious chops. The Watergate fiasco and a MacGuffin that could be tied to JFK loom at the corners, but they’re mostly distractions; the film is best when characters sit and banter over whisky, even if their hands are tied and a gun is to their head.