Bad Times at the El Royale

Written by Michael Clawson

40/100

None of these characters elicited much feeling in me, nor did the atonal direction, which deprives the film of any noteworthy sense of anxiety, apprehension, or wry black humor that might have otherwise seeped outward from the performances. At the outset I was quite intrigued by Goddard’s willingness to move slowly, letting most of the first scene play out in a prolonged single take, but rhythmically the movie proceeds to be as monotonous as Darlene’s metronome. 

As played by Cynthia Erivo, Darlene did draw me in, as did Emily, Dakota Johnson’s character. Darlene’s singing voice is an emotional force, but it doesn’t register as deeply as it should because Goddard’s framing is so uninspired. Similarly, Johnson imbues every look at her character’s sister with believable affection and concern, but the script gives her little more than that to do; an attempt to complicate her character is made through hints at an abusive upbringing, but I would have preferred Johnson herself been given the opportunity to express the implications of that trauma. Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) is the film’s boldest attempt to simultaneously evoke dread and droll amusement, but I found myself neither amused nor uneasy in his presence. 

My excitement peaked at the sight of Xavier Dolan, who sadly was gone in no time. I could hardly even pay attention to what he was saying because I was too busy thinking about how The Death and Life of John F. Donovan just needs to come out already.

Suspiria (2018)

Written by Michael Clawson

85/100

By ditching the phantasmagoric color that animated Argento’s beloved classic and foregrounding the political turmoil of late 1970s Germany, Guadagnino steeps his reimagining of Suspiria in reality, only to send it dancing into the depths of a beautifully twisted nightmare at the drop of a silver hook.

Call Me By Your Name‘s warm and inviting Italian countryside setting is a distant memory in the halls of the Markos Dance Academy, which feels more like a mausoleum than the home to a group of lithe, young, female dancers. With its labyrinthine corridors draped in greys, browns, and blacks, it’s cold and forbidding; hardly the atmosphere in which one can imagine feeling emboldened to perform with the kind of carnal and instinctual drive that Suzie Bannion does. As Suzie, Dakota Johnson’s physicality is tantalizing, and the razor sharp cross-cutting between one of her first dances and her fellow dancer Olga being contorted and folded like a pretzel is an unforgettable display of weaponized art.

Borrowing only the bones of the original, Guadagnino’s Suspiria is wholly his own. For all the death, rot, and decay that seems to sit beneath the dance floor, the film’s vision is new and fresh.

Michael Clawson originally posted this review on Letterboxd 11/09/18

Available on Prime Video