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By midlandsmovies, Jan 17 2019 05:07PM



Suspiria (2018) Dir. Luca Guadagnino


Having just discovered the original Suspiria 1977 two years ago (yeah, I know) I was impressed with the Giallo style and music of the cult classic but a tad underwhelmed – perhaps as a result of high expectations.


However, as stylish as Dario Argento’s film was, this film – which is “inspired” by that horror of the same name – goes to much more complex and dark places than Argento’s slasher.


The story is familiar as Dakota Johnson’s expert dancer heads to Berlin to enrol in a dance academy in the 70s but finds there are dark forces behind the façade of the respected school.


Stylistically Guadagnino avoids the extreme colours of the original – bar some fantastical dream sequences – and shows Berlin as an oppressive and grey city rocked by terrorist atrocities. And although these ideas aren’t fully formed – some going nowhere – the constant presence of outside public news is as oppressive as the oppressiveness featured within the mirrored walls of the school itself.


Despite her unquestionable talent Susie Bannion (Johnson) begins to exhibit traits of a missing student and a parallel story sees psychotherapist Josef Klemperer investigate the mystery. Sadly one of the biggest drawbacks is the decision to cast Tilda Swinton, an actress I love, as the very male doctor. Each of her appearances – in what has to be said is fantastic make-up – took me out of the movie and seems an excellent experiment in the wrong film for it.


Swinton does the best she can caked in prosthetics BUT also appears as stern matriarch Madame Blanc – the lead choreography teacher and away from the sex-swap role is much better in delivering a strict matron – but one with a layer of sensitivity and doubt by the film’s conclusion.


The film’s editing begins chaotically and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke provides a soundtrack that echoes some of the original’s melodies but in fact sets itself apart from it in the best way possible. From full songs that contain his inimitable falsetto, Yorke also seems to have delved into horror music’s past. With orchestral segments reminiscent of Bernard Herrman’s Psycho score to repeated piano refrains influenced by Halloween and The Exorcist, Yorke keeps the score diverse, layered and yet unobtrusive throughout. A phrase not echoed in the original’s bombastic and totally over-powering music.


One of the best scenes in the film occurs when a student threatens to leave but is locked in a rehearsal room and Johnson’s dance moves in another room are replicated – voodoo doll-style – by the trapped woman. Smashing her bones into the mirrored wall and with joints flying out of sockets, the beauty of the dance shapes are contrasted brilliantly with the nastiness of the injuries being inflicted.


Disgusting, shocking and bloody, it’s a masterclass of visual storytelling and horrific aesthetics, and is one of the best scenes of 2018 without question and has to be seen to be believed. Brace yourself people.


As the teachers are slowly revealed to be part of a witches coven, the film explores issues of motherhood as they try to “re-birth” the spirit of Markos – currently contained in the body of a disfigured corpse-like woman.


The dancing is fantastic and the dull-colour palette of the film is punctuated by the vivid reds of dance costumes, dresses and, of course, plenty of the red stuff as Johnson uncovers awful goings-on in the hidden catacombs of the academy building.


As the film comes to a physical crescendo the ending is a slight let down with a new twist on the original. And with the good work delivered to that point it becomes frustratingly unfortunate that clichéd operatic music and a seen-it-before ceremony brings the film to a slightly drab conclusion.


That said, despite a 2 and a half hour run time – which certainly doesn’t feel like it – Suspiria is a gory piece of art from start to finish. Themes of guilt, history and power are all thrown into a mix of dark passions and the body horror/beauty of contemporary choreography. Whilst not all of them gel together, the film dances to its own ritualistic chaos in a distorted orgy of cinematic pleasures.


★★★★ ½


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 2 2017 09:31AM



Okja (2017) Dir. Bong Joon-ho


After the fantastic Snowpiercer – a train-based sci-fi dystopia that got bogged-down in UK release legal limbo but was our 3rd favourite film of 2014 – the South Korean director returns with an excellent tale of animals and social responsibility.


Bringing along Tilda Swinton from Snowpiecer and adding Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins and Jake Gyllenhaal, the real star(s) of the show are child actress Ahn Seo-hyun and her oversized gene-spliced pig-walrus pet Okja.


Swinton plays Lucy Mirando whose shady corporation are conducting a ‘superpig’ breeding competition around the world and, after many years, select a winner. This happens to be Okja who is based far away in the countryside with Seo-hyun’s Mija. And from frolicking around woods and streams, Bong pulls at the heart-strings from the outset. The two have a chemistry that carries beyond the screen, which is quite the feat given the animal’s CGI rendering, but warm personality shines from both the loveable pet and its protective owner.


The corporation attempts to take Okja to be crowned in New York City but are intercepted by the Animal Liberation Front (led by Dano) who aim to expose the abuse the company inflicts on animals. With truck chase action and a thrilling sequence with Okja causing public destruction in a brief escape, Bong adds excitement and intensity to the film’s moral conflicts. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a mad scientist called Wilcox and steals the show with a pantomime performance as he tests, breeds and tortures poor Okja in horrific scenes made all the more harrowing by his disturbed control freak.


The film questions the meat industry by shining a light on shady practices and slaughter-house gruesomeness and my only gripe that – and as a meat-eater I take full responsibility for my choice – he wears his position so visible on the film’s sleeve that it becomes slightly ‘preachy’ towards its conclusion.


That said, even this old carnivore was made to think about the responsibilities and moral justifications about an industry that prioritises mass culling over individual animal rights. And I think many others will feel that too in a fantastic drama about ethics and culpability. And if you don’t fall for and root for the adorable Okja then you may already be dead inside.


7/10


Midlands Movies Mike


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