Luca Guadagnino is a name that every contemporary cinephile knows by now, whether it is from his earlier arthouse dramas, I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, or last year’s coming-of-age romance that made its rounds through the festival and awards circuits, Call Me By Your Name. His most recent film is Suspiria, a re-imagining of Dario Argento’s 1977 Italian giallo horror classic starring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton.
From the outset of Guadagnino’s Suspiria, his film is clearly different from the original: the remake strays quite far from Argento’s film narratively and is rather loosely based on the characters and setting. Instead of reproducing the original film verbatim, Guadagnino instead extracts its ideas and expands upon them to create a new story — in fact, what connects his film to the original more than any concrete plot device is the eerie feeling of hyperreality they both work to create. They are very much separate entities, leaving room for Guadagnino to build what he wants in this new universe — an opportunity he seems ready to take advantage of.
Speaking to The Playlist, Guadagnino mentioned his idea for a Suspiria prequel:
“I have this image in my mind of Helena Markos in solitude in the year 1212 in Scotland or in Spain. Wandering through a village and trying to find a way on how she can manipulate the women of the village. I have this image. I know she was there, I know it was six to seven hundred years before the actual storyline of this film.”
This wouldn’t be the first time that Guadagnino has commented on his desire for a follow-up to one of his features. He has made several comments on his hopes for a Call Me By Your Name sequel that follows its main characters further down the road. The idea of a sequel for the film seems far-fetched at first glance, but enthusiasm expressed by its lead actors, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, and frequent discussion by the original film’s cast and crew hints that Call Me By Your Name 2 is increasingly becoming a likelihood.
So what about a Suspiria prequel? Is it really going to happen? And what’s more, should it?
The idea of Suspiria as more than just a standalone film is more than just a mere whim of Guadagnino’s — at one point, he instructed screenwriter David Kajganich to title the script “Suspiria: Part One,“ but ultimately decided he didn’t want the film to be seen as something that couldn’t stand on its own. In other words, the idea of doing more Suspiria installments, whether prequels or sequels, has been toyed with from the beginning.
For a Suspiria prequel to even be set in motion, the film has to be somewhat financially successful. In its initial limited release, Suspiria debuted with the best per-theater average of the year, but there is room for improvement in its numbers following its November 2nd expansion. In addition to this, Helena Markos is one of the film’s three characters played by Swinton, so her agreement to the project would be crucial. However, considering Swinton’s history of recurring collaboration with Guadagnino, that likely wouldn’t take much convincing.
But logistics aside, would a prequel be artistically feasible? Considering its separation from the original film, it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility by any means and Guadagnino has room to create and expand upon the basis of his own vision. But Suspiria is a remake at the end of the day, and franchising it could potentially launch a flurry of sequels and projects by other directors down the road that lack the creative points of view that make the original — and Guadgnino’s re-interpretation of it — so great.
Guadagnino’s films are so unique in their artistry that it’s often hard to imagine their sequels. This isn’t to say that sequels are inherently bad: they can be used to further explore the world of a given story rather than just serve as a mere money-making ploy. Even Argento’s own Suspiria was part of the “Three Mothers” trilogy, each film connected through its focus on one of the titular magic-manipulating “Mothers.” Guadagnino’s talk about sequels has always resonated with a Linklater-esque approach, often suggesting playing with the characters over or in a different period of time.
This could work for Guadagnino’s Suspiria, especially with the fact that the film would likely be only loosely related and would be serving as more of an origin story for Markos. But while Markos’ backstory would be an interesting one to explore, it still seems a bit of an odd and unnecessary route to take. While audiences (myself included) would probably have fun seeing the genealogy of a witch coven be traced onscreen, it doesn’t seem all that purposeful to the world of the story.
There are far worse film follow-ups that have been and will be made. As far as sequels go, an expansion of the Suspiria Cinematic Universe (the SCU?) would be quite an interesting venture, especially years down the road. But for now, in a time where sequels and franchises are dominating theatre chains, it is enough to just appreciate Guadagnino’s Suspiria for the mind-bending and unique piece of art that it is.