Suspiria doesn't so much nail the Bechdel test as set fire to it and then do a naked victory dance around the flames. This is a film entirely about women and their bodies and their relationships, but that's not why you should see it.
You should go and see Suspiria - because along with Hereditary - it's one of the most shocking horror movies of the year. Every second is calibrated to keep you rigid with suspense, tugging you further and further into its world of dance and the occult so skillfully that you reach the spectacular climax in what feels like mere minutes, despite the two hours and 30 minutes running time.
It's the story of innocent Susie - the sort of innocent you can only be when you've grown up in a sheltered religious family in Ohio - who follows her dreams and travels to Berlin in the ‘70s to dance at the Markos Dance Academy. At the same time, another American, Patricia Hingle, is telling her psychotherapist that the academy is run by witches, and terrible things are happening there.
While the posters and buzz around the upcoming movie have focused on Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton is the conductor at the center of the film, directing its dark melody with her performances. As the dance instructor Madame Blanc she's as magnetic as she is unnerving - like a beautiful but venomous insect that could sting at any moment - and as the old man Josef Klemperer she's a bystander to the cultish madness of the dance company. There's something so beautiful about the fact that in a movie so entirely about women, the only man of any significance is still played by Tilda Swinton. She also has another role, Mother Markos, but to explain why that's so brilliantly grotesque would be to spoil too much. Swinton is the master of playing the otherworldly, even when - here - Blanc's costume is no make up, long hair tied practically back, simple maxi dresses in muted colors.
As for Johnson, I owe her an apology. After watching Fifty Shades of Grey (it was on HBO for free, I was curious, it was about as arousing as a George Foreman grill), I'd written her off, after Suspiria I want to lie at her feet and get her cups of tea whenever she asks. She moves from wide-eyed good girl to... something else with such poise that you barely notice it happening. She and Swinton are perfectly matched, and, in one seen at a dinner table with zero dialogue, manage to blow away about a million other performances in the best movies of 2018.
In case you're worried all this talk of restraint means there's no horror, you can be assured that there's plenty. One scene, featuring an unfortunate dancer called Olga, is so physically upsetting that even my hardened heart flipped. Looking away is no good either, no matter how hard you shut your eyes and clamp your hands over you ears there's no escaping the grunting, bone-cracking awfulness of it all. The final scenes of the movie, meanwhile, are a spectacle that will decorate the inside of your head like bloody cave paintings for weeks after the end credits roll.
Most importantly, just because this is a movie about female power, it doesn't mean the women in it are on a pedestal. You're allowed to enjoy their poison and power and violence - the same way you can enjoy Jason or Michael culling teenagers in the suburbs - without having to excuse it. Suspiria lets its characters be complicated and disgusting and dangerous, but leaves it up to you in you hate them or love them? Me? I'm starting a new religion. We'll be called the Swintonites, and it involves a lot of candles, photo collages, and compulsory listening to Thom Yorke's perfect Suspiria score at least once a day. Watch Suspiria, and I guarantee you'll want to convert.
Looking for more films to send a shiver down your spine? Check out out list of the best horror movies.