The best horror movies, just as major as the more reputable stuff, work on a primal level, beyond plot or words. They grab at your bowels. Dario Argento’s 1977 stunner Suspiria, an explosion of color, gore and vaulting stylistic ambition, is undoubtedly one of them. To know (and to love) the film is to appreciate Italian cinema in a deeper way, for its eeriness and hysteria.
Still, it wasn’t quite a slam dunk when it was announced that a fellow Italian—even one as gifted as Call Me by Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino—would be re-imagining Suspiria, an obsession of his for decades. Guadagnino knows about getting good performances, and how to brew adult sexiness. But it’s a miracle that he seems to understand Argento’s witch-centric original on an almost molecular level—so much so that he can radically depart from it and still cast his own spell.
Scripted by David Kajganich (who also did Guagadnino’s A Bigger Splash, itself an adaptation of the 1969 French thriller La Piscine), today’s Suspiria is a spectacularly strange affair, thrumming with wild blood and weird powers. It’s easily the classiest horror movie made in years, maybe ever, decked out in muted pinks and green marble, and scored, gorgeously, by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, whose arpeggiating piano lines, rumbling synths and cooing vocals create a Can–like propulsiveness. Traditional horror fans won’t be pleased: Almost transgressively, Guadagnino has deprioritized the shocks, even the fear. But in their place, he’s pumped u