Suspiria 2018

When The Rite of Spring premiered in 1911, Parisians cat-called, protested and even brawled in the audience. It’s hard to think of something as genteel as the ballet eliciting such reactions today. But here we are with Suspiria 2018, the balletic ballet horror film which has bifurcated gore-hounds. Luckily,  nobody’s come to blows.

Oscar Wilde often warned against the permanence of truth claims in art, which has been borne out when you see how the likes of jazz and impressionist paintings are received today compared with their debuts: casual indifference. They’ve faded into bourgeoisie acceptance.

While its detractors feebly point out that its cinematography is out of date and its story-line, quaint, the original Suspiria is still held in very high regard (not the least of which by us here. It’s in our Top 10 Horror Films of all Time). So, when Luca Guadagnino came along with the brass balls to remake the beloved Argento masterstroke, the pre-reception to the announcement foretold a Stravinsky-type blowback.

And so it goes. You’re damned if you do, in these circles.

But IF you do, do it Guadagnino style and go for broke. Unlike David Gordon Green’s beat-for-beat retread of Halloween, which, despite getting the Carpenter imprimatur remained “stuck in the mud” as Conor McGregor might say of his opponents, Suspiria 2018 is VERY DIFFERENT from its predecessor. And hell, that’s half the battle right there. Halloween 2018 is “everything to all people,” but ultimately signifying nothing. And for all its many faults, Suspiria is a force to be reckoned with, and deserves treatment as an independent entity.

Gone is the simple witch story, as well as the luscious pinks, reds, and blues you get from a Dario vision (instead, the film’s starkly bi-chromatic…with a palette not unlike The Witch, speaking of covens). Gone is Suzy Bannion’s teen innocence. In its place, oodles of backstory, gobs of historical context, lots of internecine witch squabbling, and most noticeable, dancing aplenty. The role of the psychiatrist is amped up, and like its forebear, there is spectacular (and hugely memorable) violence.

Dakota Johnson is gorgeous, game, and physical. And Tilda Swinton outstanding. Still, there are bits of howler dialogue where you half-expect Dieter from Sprockets to pas de chat across your screen. The Red Army Faction / Baader-Meinhof Gang + Nazi subplot is confusing, and tethers the film glumly to history (compared with Argento’s uniquely otherworldly sense of place, inspired by Snow White). And if it’s one thing both detractors and boosters will concede, this one’s criminally overlong.

Still, there is just too much funky weirdness and atmosphere to dismiss it. Time will tell how Suspiria will be remembered as we sit back, enjoy, and digest.

*** (out of 5)

[Listen to our discussion of the new Suspiria film on the
Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

Killer Condom

Big thanks to our buddy Lloyd Kaufman and the folks at Troma for picking this one up, er, perhaps the wrong choice of words…for distribution. Killer Condom makes for a wonderfully cheeky double bill with Greg Lamberson’s Killer Rack* (cheap plug, as one of us was an associate producer on that one). And the flick delivers as promised: prophylactic panic! Dome dread! Jarring jimmies! terror Trojans!

Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel, star of Far Away So Close) is a jaded dick walking the streets of the Big Apple. He frequents a flea-bag hotel where a sinister crime has taken place, which readers shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out. Cops initially suspect lady paramours and women of the evening, but it turns out that’s not who’s doin’ in johns.

Turns out that there are indeed, as the poster says, “rubbers that rub you out.” Luigi’s bosses are skeptical, and NYPD doesn’t want the word to get out about such a preposterous MO.

A German language film based on  Ralf König’s comic book series, Kondom des Grauens, Killer Condom keeps the dark subject matter light, even with AIDS subtext. 

It’s rich, occasionally creepy and sardonically funny. Killer Condom has a world-weary, almost leisurely feel, which is incredibly rare for a horror film.

Variety Magazine said, “The Killer Condom” may not fit everyone’s idea of a good time (don’t worry, there’s a “but” coming) but [it] “will wring a few laughs out of anyone looking for a non-correct evening out.”

With this kind of title, and associated subject matter, it should come as no surprise that Killer Condom provided fodder for our show, the Really Awful Movies Podcast.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[*Editor’s note: As a point of interest, the anthology horror Chillerama, which we reviewed on this site, features an installment where a character emits a very very large spermatazoa, which wreaks monster-movie style havoc on New York City]