It’s a strange time to remake a Dario Argento movie. The master of giallo (Italian for “yellow”), the crime, thriller, and horror genre films that flourished in the 60s and 70s, took particular pleasure in torturing his female characters, often in scenes involving rape and starring his topless daughter. Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 Suspiria “opens its eyes in a world where female power has never been stronger or more under attack,” writes Wired’s Angela Watercutter, who advises those who haven’t seen the original to save it until they’ve watched the modern homage.
Aiming to “de-victimize” Argento’s women, the remake takes the original story of a coven of witches operating a dance studio in Berlin but emphasizes its characters as figures of mysterious power who are both “fear and revered.” Where Argento goes for the maximal amount of luridness—in blazing reds and yellows echoed in the first scenes in a neon McDonald’s sign—Guadagnino’s approach “is more muted in both palatte and tone, opting for insidious weirdness over shock and gore,” as David Roony writes at The Hollywood Reporter.
Contributing heavily to the shift in tone is a score from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke that could “hardly be more dissimilar to the cacophonous prog-rock of Goblin that was such an essential part of the original’s sensory assault.” To call the first Suspiria and its glorious score an “assault” is not at all pejorative, but a purely accurate description of their style. But Guadagnino wisely sensed that the grim beauty of Yorke’s songwriting would best speak to a contemporary version, so he hounded the Radiohead singer until he agreed.
Though he’d never scored a film before, and was intimated by the challenge, Yorke found his way in through the script. “There was this melancholy which I was really surprised about. Not like a normal horror film at all,” he says in the BBC interview at the top with Mary Anne Hobbs. He calls the film’s mood “a weird form of darkness,” which could equally describe the evocations of dread underlying all of his work. The process of scoring Suspiria, he says, was “freeing… because there’s no sense of my identity on it at all…. I’m whoever he wanted me to be at the moment, for whatever particular section of the film.”
These live performances for the BBC, especially “Suspirium” further up, might seem to belie that assessment. The songs draw deeply from Yorke’s familiar well of spare, atmospheric angst, which is all to the good. They also see him moving in unexpected directions. “Open Again” builds on a gently finger-picked acoustic guitar figure, and “Unmade,” above, almost channels Burt Bacharach’s moodier film pieces, with its lounge-y piano and yearning vocal melody.
The score became a family project; Yorke’s son played drums on some of the tracks and his daughter helped design the artwork. On a BBC Radio 6 appearance, Yorke also played an hour-long mix of his favorite atmospheric records and debuted a previously unreleased track called “Suspiria Solo Glass Harmonica.” Listen here and see the new Suspiria trailer below.