director: Luca Guadagnino
writers: David Kajganich
starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton and Mia Goth
genre: Fantasy | Horror | Mystery
released: 1 November 2018 (Greece), 2 November 2018 (USA), 8 November 2018 (Australia), 15 November 2018 (Germany)
It’s not the norm to get good remakes or reboots as a general rule, but if a ‘A Star is Born’ taught us anything is that they are worth a shot. As the work in this remake makes it into a wholly different experience from the original film while still being respectful, which is a positive undoubtedly. However, it also led the story down paths potentially unnecessary or ill advised for the film’s narrative and conclusion.
Susan Bannon (Dakota Johnson) moves to Germany to enlist in a infamous company of modern dancers. There she will be faced with the challenge of transforming herself as an artist and as a person. Finding out that this dance company has supernatural roots with different players fighting for influence and power. She and her fellow dancer Sara will seek to find out more about what is at heart of this company, while a outside psychotherapist gets caught up in the mix due to another dancer’s peculiar therapy sessions.
In the prologue it was stated that paths unnecessary or ill advised were taken. This specifically refers to the film’s choice of direction which is to be quite direct compared to other horror film’s in general, while also to the original film’s handling of its themes and content. This can be said also for its handling of character arcs and multiple story threads of which are many and that this led to a film that gave too much insight of what was traversing, too soon and from more sides than needed. And because of it, sacrificed potential relationships in the film that could have been further developed. This all pretty much has to do with the film’s attempt to give arcs to quite a few of the characters and in specific Susan, Sara, Dr. Josef Klemperer and Madame Blanc. As a consequence, film is a little bit on the long side and the complete opposite of the original. Of which ended too soon and without adequate explanation of its events or even a natural feeling of closure.
This completely different direction is a welcome change and makes this remake thankfully original and different in many aspects to the 1977 film. Which was truly a B-film despite its distinct creative input and execution. As it barely had supporting characters, arcs or even a plot for that matter. Here on the other hand, has a artistic portrayal of what is a horror film and its crucial point of difference is that it maybe lacks (besides other issues) uniqueness in the fact that people expected much more from it, whereas the original didn’t. As no one expected anything from an Italian B-movie horror film and it ending up having a one of a kind soundtrack (music is great here also, but the original’s was of a different level), Dario Argento’s unique vision and style to place it on the map. This film while artistic in the other direction, with muted colors, better production values and not as much overacting or quick cut scenery. Doesn’t have enough moxie to make into a cult classic and also had a lot to live up to.
Furthermore, the choice of making it a horror epic of close to 3 hours was unnecessary, especially when there isn’t a lot of action to go around or dialogue. As while the film is long it doesn’t truly focus well enough on its main character of Susan and its too late in the film’s narrative that we get to understand her motivation and connection to the company. The same could also be said for her fellow dancer Sara as well. While also the Dr. Klemperer who might have had an interesting arc, but could have been easily cut down, as his importance in the film wasn’t as grave compared to Susan, Sara or Madame Blanc and the internal politics of the coven.
Finally, this being a horror film, it is tame for the most part and held itself back at many points throughout its length. It truly didn’t force its hand on showing the goods until the very end and even then, because of its artistic direction it wasn’t as impactful. The film had a very good way of presenting its themes and supernatural events to be creepy with clever editing, cinematography and sound, but then at the end chose an avant-garde way of dealing with the climax which was very low key, dramatic and gory, but not disgusting at the same time. It’s very weird to explain and has to be viewed to be understood. As the camera angles chosen and the lenses as well lead to shots that aren’t what you are used of when watching a horror film, but also works to give a different vibe for the film’s climax that was neither scary or horrific. It was more dramatic and melancholic that many might find to like, but others will find it to be anti climactic and still not satisfying enough. A good example of a film that tried something similar with camera techniques was ‘From Dusk Till Dawn‘ and one of its scenes from the ‘Titty Twister’ bar in the third act. However, in that film it worked a lot better as the music matched the technique intention for a different tonal impact.
This is a artistic horror film in every sense of the words. It proves a point that horror can be edgy, provocative, disgusting while at the same time dramatic with intriguing story-lines and characters. This doesn’t mean necessarily that everything was done to perfection, but that the people involved at least strived for it and in the process made a unique film that wasn’t unique enough, but still an oddity worth seeing.