Luca Guadagnino has established himself as one of the most luxuriously visual directors working today. So it shouldn’t be surprising he would tackle the remake of Suspiria, Dario Argento’s classic giallo film about a dancer who discovers mysterious goings-on at her dance academy, and yet, I am surprised. Suspiria is not only one of the most influential horror movies of all time, it’s also a masterpiece of genre and style. Masterpieces do not need to be remade. I’m a big fan of Guadagnino, but I don’t know why he’s doing this. Why is anyone doing this? I guess if we have to do this, Guadagnino is the guy to do it, if only because his own aesthetic flair could, arguably, rival Argento’s. But I’m not convinced “I guess he can do it” is a compelling enough reason to remake Suspiria.
Yet it has happened. The first trailer for Guadagnino’s take on Suspiria was released yesterday and it looks…fine. The trailer is deliberately vague, and they will undoubtedly not want to tip the plot to anyone who isn’t familiar with Argento’s film. What we get is a lot of mood and style, which does at least confirm one thing about the remake—Guadagnino has entirely reconceived the look of this film. Suspiria is famously lurid, its red-soaked visuals reportedly inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. (You can check out the 40th anniversary restoration trailer to get a sense of the original’s look.) But Guadagnino is working on the opposite end of the spectrum, in cold greys and browns, with only flashes of red nodding at the original.
That includes Dakota Johnson’s obviously fake hair, which bothers Lainey because it’s a bad wig. But I’m not sure “good” or “real” is the goal here. Coiffure is part of the aesthetic of New Wave, where women have perfectly coiffed yet obviously synthetic hair, and you can find similarly styled feminine heads on the low-brow end of the cinema spectrum, too, with be-wigged heroines in giallo and sexploitation flicks. Modern films that look back on this era, such as The Love Witch and The Duke of Burgundy, put wigs on the heads of their heroines (in both cases, the wigs are expressly conflated with sexuality). So I’m not convinced the goal of Dakota Johnson’s red wig is to look like authentic hair, so much as contributing to the retro aesthetic of the film.
I guess I like this aesthetic? Even if Guadagnino is working in the “frozen tundra” end of the temperature scale, his Suspiria is bound to be beautiful. And he’s got a great cast, bringing back collaborators Johnson and Tilda Swinton. They’re joined by Chloe Grace Moretz and Mia Goth. It’s just that I still don’t understand why this is happening. Hopefully, the film will justify itself, hopefully, Guadagnino found some interesting angle to set his version apart. Because while the LOOK of his remake is different, the tone of the trailer is pretty much locked into the tone of the original, which is a creative loop in which I am supremely uninterested. I look at all this talent and wonder why it’s being expended on redoing something that is already perfect.
Attached - Dakota Johnson out for a coffee in LA a couple of weeks ago.