2018 is the year of disturbing dance movies

From Luca Guadagnino's stomach-churning 'Suspiria' remake to a Christmas zombie musical.

by Hannah Ongley
Aug 29 2018, 8:02pm


Dance is normally thought of as celebratory, whether it’s the collective joy of a Soul Train line dance, an uncoordinated conga around Times Square’s now-shuttered Señor Frog’s (RIP), or a solo go at Britney’s “Toxic” choreography in the privacy of your bedroom. But in many movies, dance is a rather different kind of catharsis, one more closely resembling an exorcism and/or backed by a soundtrack of wailing synths. This is true for a slew of new dance-centric horror films hitting screens this year. One of 2018’s most anticipated releases is Gaspar Noé’s deranged musical Climax, which The Guardian described as “a horrendous decline into madness and infernal despair,” and i-D as “Paris Is Burning meets The Shining.” So yeah, it’s no Step Up 2: The Streets. Elsewhere, Luca Guadagnino is making his Call Me By Your Name follow-up with a remake of Dario Argento’s nightmarish ballet movie Suspiria, Jennifer Lawrence is continuing her scare streak as a pirouetting Russian spy, and the festive season will even bring a horror musical where small town teens are forced to “fight, slash, and sing their way to survival.” If Black Swan didn’t give you a lifelong fear of highly coordinated ingénues, here are five films to see this year.

Only six people walked out of the Sundance premiere of Gaspar Noe’s Climax, while some of those who didn’t called the film Noé’s best work since his debut 1998 film I Stand Alone. The divisive film’s stars are mostly young Parisian dancers from the city’s underground street voguing scene, who perform their most nightmarish moves after slamming back cups of LSD-fueled sangria during a practice session in an empty school building. At the center of the troupe is French-Algerian actor/dance Sofia Boutella. While mostly known for her roles in big action movies, her dance movies are far more wild than any triple roundhouse kick. Climax also has a stellar soundtrack featuring a new song by Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter called, you guessed it, “Sangria.” This might do for the wine emoji what Call Me By Your Name did to the peach.

Madeline’s Madeline
Newcomer Helena Howard stars in this spectacular coming-of-age mindfuck as a teen acting prodigy. The film centers around the rehearsal of an experimental theater production, about the spectrum of bipolar disorder and anxiety. Howard also happens to be a Black Swan superfan, seeing something of herself in Nina’s metamorphosis and desire to please. Madeline’s Madeline ends with one of the most terrifying interpretative dance scenes in recent history, a exorcism-like collage of flailing limbs and surreal pig masks. Howard’s haunting performance required her to enter a dissociative state during the filming process. “When I was going out with people at the time they would ask if I was okay,” she told us earlier this month. “I wouldn’t notice at the time but it was because I was in her state of being.”

Red Sparrow
Six years after Jennifer Lawrence showcased her best ballroom moves opposite Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, the actor transformed herself into a Bolshoi prima for Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow. While an injury ends Lawrence’s ballet career early on, dance remains central to the thriller’s plot, as she enters a second life as a sexy spy who draws on her ballet training to seduce victims. Lawrence spent four hours a day, five days a week, practicing precision footwork with Kurt Froman the garage of her Los Angeles home. Maybe that’s the reason she survived this year’s Oscars without falling over once.

Luca Guadagnino’s follow up to Call Me By Your Name is far from another idyllic romp at an Italian villa. A remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic, Suspiria follows young dancer Suzy (Dakota Johnson) as she travels to Berlin to attend a prestigious ballet school, unwittingly setting off a chain of gruesome supernatural events. Filming Suspiria was apparently so traumatic for Johnson that it sent it her to therapy, she revealed to Elle earlier this year. It also prompted extreme reactions from an unsuspecting CinemaCon audience subjected to gristly footage.

Anna and the Apocalypse
Bringing festive cheer in the form of a zombie apocalypse, this musical Christmas horror comedy stars a bunch of high school teens “fighting, slashing, and singing their way to survival” in small town Scotland. Intriguingly described by Variety as “ High School Musical meets Dawn of the Dead,” Anna and the Apocalypse apparently features above-par dance routines and addictive pop ballads, including a requisite sexy rendition of Eartha Kitt’s 1953 hit “Santa Baby,” which we’re hoping is the new “Jingle Bell Rock” from Mean Girls. Sarah Swire is responsible for the film’s dynamic choreo, and also appears in the film as Anna’s woke American lesbian friend.

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