My reviews for Suspiria and The World’s End were meant to be for the Back to School and Rocktoberfest cross-cuts, respectively. However, these two flicks are better lumped under the more accurate and common banner of Euro-Horror (or in the case of The World’s End, Euro-Horror-Comedy), and it really wouldn’t do to separate the two, now would it? And, no, there hasn’t been a more desperate attempt to rationalize one’s tardiness in submitting assigned writing in the history of tardy assigned writing. Just roll with it.
First, off: Suspiria. This is the crown jewel (a blood-red Ruby) in Italian horror-teur Dario Argento’s bizarre cinematic tiara. So much so that it’s finally getting an American remake with Chloe Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, and Tilda Swinton. Presumably, that re-do will be immediately less wacky than the original by virtue of the fact that it isn’t Italian. You never know, though. The chick from Fifty Shades of Grey, Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass, and Tilda Swinton are all in it. So watch out.
Anyway, Suspiria revolves around doe-eyed hottie Susy Banyon (Jessica Harper), an American ballerina who must think her existence in the U.S. is so boring that she enrolls in the creepiest dance academy East of whatever NYC hellhole Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis trained at in Black Swan. Sure enough, Susy’s first night is a total bust, involving (A) a raging rainstorm, (B) a fellow student named Pat Hingle (Eva Axen) rushing away from the school in the middle of said rainstorm; (C) Susy not being allowed into the school, forcing her to follow Pat into town; and (D) Pat and a local friend being filleted like the main course of a Hannibal episode. Welcome to Germany, Susy.
Things pretty much go from bad to worse to worst to “Holy Jehosaphat what the hell was I thinking” when Susy discovers that everyone at the Tanz Akademie is either (1) a humorless, bitchy teacher, (2) a skank-ho, bitchy student, (3) a sourpuss, bitchy cook, or (3) a creepy manservant with giant false teeth that would make Mister Ed jealous. On top of that, Susy also finds out from new best pal Sara (Stefania Casini) that the Akademie has been the center of some very strange goings-ons lately. I mean, apart from everyone dressing like circus whores. Oh, wait, this movie is just set in 1977. My bad.
Anyhow, turns out Pat was Sara’s pal and she was onto something sinister afoot before she got spooked the night Susy arrived, then fled from the school and right into the business end of some psycho’s knife. Susy also learns the school was started by some freaky chick named Elena Markos who was reputed to be one evil biyatch. And then there’s that bit about strange snoring following a rain of maggots that forces our skanky students to room together in a large gym like it’s Summer Camp For Euro-Skanks. Don’t even ask. I beg of you.
Hilariously, none of this makes Sara and Susy any less determined to find out what Pat uncovered before she got sliced and diced. That’s it, ladies. Keep investigating. Keep digging. Keep sticking your noses where they don’t belong. Don’t worry. No one will chop your heads off. They’ll just shove a spear through your hearts. And wrap your asses in barbed razor-wire. Nothing major. Oh, and a little tip for Sara: if someone with a cutthroat razor is chasing you at night through a school full of sleeping students, keeping as quiet as a church mouse is not the best route to survival. Now is the perfect time to scream your head off, idiot.
By contrast, at least the comedy in The World’s End is intentional. Imagine if Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Diner, and a Heineken commercial all had a drunken four-way and invited the BBC to watch. Simon Pegg, Paddy Considine, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, and Martin Freeman play best mates from Uni who re-assemble in their hometown of Newton Haven to finish what they could never quite pull off during their school daze: a legendary pub crawl blazing through the burg’s twelve bars, ending at the titular watering hole.
Unfortunately, the movie and the bar do not share the same name for nothing, for it soon becomes apparent the biggest threat to our quintet of drunken bastards accomplishing their mission is not weak bladders nor Lightweight Syndrome. It’s more like Alien Syndrome. It turns out Newton Haven’s citizens have become Blue Bloods. And I don’t mean the stuck-up kind with titles like Duke, Lord, or Lady who reside in places called Downton Abbey or Bellevue. More like the ones with superhuman strength with, well, blue blood that spurts out when you knock their heads off. Apparently, Newton Haven is Ground Zero for some kind of alien invasion. Or is it a robot invasion? Hard to tell.
At any rate, in between dunking their heads into pools of ale and lager, our five fools, er, heroes enlist the aid of a hot chick named Sam (Rosamund Pike) and a stuffy dude named Mr. Shepherd (Pierce Brosnan), both of whom played pivotal parts in the boys’ Uni years. Wonder if Sam and Mr. Shepherd recognize each other from their attempts to kill one another in Die Another Day? Whatever. It soon becomes clear that things will never be the same in Stepford, er, Newton Haven unless our Five Boozy Musketeers, Sam, and Mr. Shepherd can unravel why the local populace is behaving like such intergalactic douchebags with bodily fluids bluer than the ink that explodes inside booby-trapped moneybags. Who will win this war? The Drunken Bastards? Or the Cockney Aliens? Or is it actually Cockney Robots? I just don’t know anymore.
Suspiria and The World’s End, while appearing a bit different on the surface, are actually great examples of how different genre movies are across the pond. You have to hand it to European flicks, arty or otherwise. They’re just, well, wonderfully nuttier than what we churn out here in the Colonies. And that is always a good thing. Which is why I’m a bit worried about that American remake of Suspiria, which will probably be Suspiria with the bat-shit factor turned all the way down to zero. Which would be tragic.
Because if you take out the colorful set design and psychedelic cinematography that looks like someone ate a rainbow of crayons and spray-shat them out all over the place, the pounding music score that sounds like what you would get if you tossed garbage can lids and broken glass and some feral cats and Lady Gaga into a blender, and the dialogue that sounds like the half-assed group project of some remarkably unmotivated ESL students, then all you really have left are witchy/bitchy skank-hos bickering in school. Which means we will probably get the bastard child of Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
John S. is a Scarecrow volunteer who loves James Bond, Jason Bourne, Italian Gialli, Dario Argento, Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, Peanut M&Ms with popcorn, Julia Roberts in PRETTY WOMAN, Theo James in anything, HALLOWEEN (movie and holiday), Scarecrow Video, Russell Crowe as a villain, strawberry soda, and Karaoke – not necessarily in that order. He also thinks he was a Bond Girl in another life, maybe a cross between Dr. Christmas Jones and Dr. Holly Goodhead.