It was always an odd match-up: Luca Guadagnino, best-known for last year’s slow-paced summer-romance drama Call Me By Your Name, and Dario Argento‘s Suspiria, a whacked-out horror movie about witches. Like Heath Ledger and the Joker, these seemed on paper like two things that weren’t inherently meant for one another. But every still image released has inspired confidence, as each image so far has looked like it was literally screen-capped from a horror movie released in the ’70s. Now it’s out there in the world, having screened at the Venice Film Festival, and according to Deadline, got an eight-minute standing ovation from the crowd in attendance. Critics, however, have been more polarized. Of the 12 reviews currently on Rotten Tomatoes, seven praise it, while the other five describe it as empty and wanting.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich is the most enthusiastic, calling it “grim and glorious madness” and comparing it to the equally divisive mother! by Darren Aronofsky. Emily Yoshida at Vulture is on the same page, saying it’s “a gorgeous, hideous, uncompromising film” that digs deeper into almost every aspect than the original. Glenn Kenny at RogerEbert.com appears to be the film’s biggest detractor so far, calling it “empty, overstuffed, ugly and thoughtless,” and its attempt to tie into the headlines of 1977 “an insulting, opportunistic co-opting of history.” He’s joined in thumbs-down by The Wrap‘s Alonso Duralde, a Guadagnino fan who nonetheless describes his reaction as, “[b]oredom, mostly, with confusion and a dollop of disappointment and irritation.”
Nobody seems on the fence, though Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian comes closest, with a three-star review that says the film “has sex and style but fails to bewitch.” (Rotten Tomatoes counts this one as “Fresh.”)
Twitter reactions, however, were much more positive (as they tend to be coming out of a premiere):
— alessio (@alessiomarinacc) September 1, 2018
It’s hard to make two masterpieces in a row, but it’s even stranger when they’re Call Me By Your Name and SUSPIRIA. A horror epic, this is a long, ambitiously structured, and disturbing foray into evil, and in the end, compassion. It’s wild, but Luca Guadagnino has done it AGAIN.
— CMBYN Mafia (@CMBYNmafia) September 1, 2018
#Venezia75 #Suspiria Brilliant! Not even remotely a remake, this is a radical reframing. Guadagnino grounds the abstractionism of the original in a post-war modern crucible. Last act orgasmic and Dakota has never been so glorious.
— Lorenzo Ciorcalo (@rotovisor) September 1, 2018
suspiria was definitely one of the most intense experiences of my life. didnt walk out of the theater like many but i can surely taste the blood in my mouth. not gonna sleep tonight lol !!! pic.twitter.com/BxPyGLokYw
— zin (@bIuevioIet) September 1, 2018
#Suspiria was insane in the best way possible. Primal AF. #TildaSwinton was glorious as always, #DakotaJohnson shines throughout and that last act is one serious headf**k. The editing and soundtrack were astonishing too. You’ve never seen dance like this ?? #Venezia75 pic.twitter.com/xl2b8pUOdW
— David Opie (@DavidOpie) September 1, 2018
— Beatrice Behn (@DansLeCinema) September 1, 2018
I really don’t even know where to begin with Suspiria. The Kubrick comparisons I heard beforehand are accurate. There’s so much to unpack, and analyze, and discuss. Take your time. We have the rest of this year, and the next few years, to talk about it at length. pic.twitter.com/CmjVlaRG0X
— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) September 1, 2018
It’s hard to reconcile the enthusiasm of the fans with the boredom of the detractors–if it were this year’s mother!, one would expect the hatred to be equally intense and angry. But what emerges is a description of a director who uncompromisingly followed his own muse, like it or not, and managed to be either pretentious or brilliant…and possibly even both at once.
We’ll find out when it opens domestically on October 26th.
What do you make of these reactions? Whom do you trust the most? Let us know in comments.
Images: Amazon Studios