Footed by Amazon Studios, Suspiria (2018) is a remake of the 1977 Italian supernatural horror film by Dario Argento. At a world-renowned German dance company, an artistic director, an ambitious young American dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist are engulfed in an all-consuming darkness. The original film was itself based on an 1845 essay by Thomas De Quincey, Suspiria de Profundis (“Sighs from the Depths”).
This remake comes by way of director Luca Guadagnino, having previously won an Academy Award for Call Me By Your Name, and Dakota Johnson leads in terms of star power, having broken out with 50 Shades of Grey. Mia Goth, Lutz Ebersdorf, Jessica Harper, and Chloë Grace Moretz co-star. In many ways, we’re looking at a prestige picture and an Oscar contender that runs parallel to the other big horror flick of the season, the upcoming Halloween reboot/remake/sequel (a bit of all three, really).
This prestigious casting and staffing runs all the way down to the enlisting of musical talent for its music, apparently, as the score is being done by Thom Yorke, of Radiohead fame (in addition to Atoms for Peace, and his own solo work) – a fact that is consciously and notably being pointed out, as he receives his own title card in this trailer, alongside the starring actors. The original film bore music by prog-rock band Goblin, so some thirty-two years after the original release Guadagnino is taking pains to put his own personal stamp on the story, as he notes in a recent interview with Criterion.
Atmospherics reign supreme in the first twenty-odd seconds, as they often do in horror trailers. Once the studio cards appear, however, we are introduced to some plaintive piano that quickly turns from the meditative vibe of fifth and octave intervals towards a chromatic, nearly – but not quite – atonal / serial pattern. As an added twist, the line is performed in duple meter, with every other note given slightly more emphasis, but the total number of notes played is nine, elongating the measure just slightly more than expected. What’s more, the extra note is the minor second, one of the most dissonant intervals in the Western, twelve-tone system.
At about 0:51 one of the piano tones is held with a newly introduced synthesizer, and at the same time, a deep, percussive bass tone arrives. Clattering metal on a tea table at 1:07 acts as a sound bridge to the first viscerally horrific scene moments later, with a card to show off the film’s growing acclaim (“Official Selection, Venice International Film Festival 2018”) smartly interspersed.
Now we hear a marked turn in the music, with an emphasis given to strings that chromatically creak and moan and brass that blares ominously in the proverbial distance. (Presumably) demons’ body parts cameo for fractions of a second, given their own audial snippets. As in many horror trailers, it’s what we do not see – and are only given to hear – that terrifies the most; a disturbing croak at 1:34 reinforced this truism.
Dramatically reinforcing sound effects besides, the serial/atonal piano theme returns at about 1:54 alongside a smattering of other atonal textures and some unidentifiable atmospheric sounds to help encapsulate the trailer’s effervescently macabre tone, then building rhythmically towards a final shriek at 2:11.
Suspiria premieres the Venice Film Festival on September 1st, expands to New York and Los Angeles on October 26th, and receives wide release on November 2nd.
– Curtis Perry