"The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of
Suspiria are the first 92."note
Suzy Bannion, an American ballet student goes to perfect her art in a Freiburg Academy. Of course, as young female students are being murdered, this is a bad idea.
Probably the most famous (and arguably the best, though it's often in contention with Deep Red
for that honor) Dario Argento
is a movie that doesn't play by any
rules. It's the first part of the Three Mothers trilogy by Director Dario Argento which also includes Inferno
(1980) and Mother of Tears
Fans of Umineko: When They Cry
will find quite a bit of value in this film, as the game and series take very heavy inspiration from it. The anime series Yuri Kuma Arashi
was also heavily inspired by the film.
"Broken Tropes, Broken Minds":
- All There in the Manual: The significance of hangings, throat-slittings, the Directoress' distinctive snoring, and the coven's deaths by asphyxiation only make sense if you know that the Directoress is the Mother of Sighs. This is important in the inspiration and the sequels, but makes less sense here.
- Animals Hate Him: Daniel's guide dog attacks Albert, Madame Blanc's nephew.
- Anyone Can Die: It's an Argento movie. What did you expect?
- Ballet Episode: For both Dario Argento and his Three Mothers Trilogy.
- Better Than It Sounds: Try describing the plot of this movie to someone briefly without making it sound like a silly stereotypic haunted house ride. With witches. Go ahead.
- Blind Musician: In one scene, where there's ballet practice, the music is played by Daniel, a blind man with a guide dog.
- Big Bad: Helena Markos Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs.
- Bizarrchitecture: Understandable, since Argento is a fan of Alfred Hitchcock.
- Boarding School of Horrors: Which Argento used again in Phenomena.
- Bookcase Passage: Helena Markos, the Directoress and Mother of Sighs is in a hidden room that can be accessed by turning the blue iris on the wall in Madame Blanc's office.
- Color Wash: Red. Everything is red.
- Conveniently Empty Building: Were it not for the field trip to the theatre, the witches wouldn't have been the only casualties of the coven's destruction.
- Creepy Child: Albert, the nephew of Miss Tanner. It doesnt help that he's dressed in very outdated victorian era childrens clothes. Modern viewers may even see a visual similarity between him and Bobby Barrows sans mask and giant scissors. He's also a member of the coven
- Cruel and Unusual Death: The deaths of Pat, her friend, and Sara are examples.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The final confrontation with the Big Bad is...surprisingly easy.
- The Darkness Gazes Back: The first murder. Eek.
- Death Trap: While following the teachers at night, Sara gets chased by an unseen killer and jumps out of a window into a room full of razor wire.
- Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead: Once the Big Bad is killed, the threat is neutralized because the other members of the coven are powerless without the leader and die.
- Empathic Environment: The storm at the end mirrors the destruction of the school.
- Evil Old Folks: The Big Bad of the film is an old woman.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Done with a twist. The evil in question manages to possess it into attacking its owner.
- Excuse Plot: It's all about the colors, music, and gore.
- Expansion Pack Past: The story is heavily fleshed out in the sequels, such as the background for the school, Helena Markos and the reason for her current state.
- Fainting: Suzy faints during ballet practice supposedly because of anemia. It's actually because of an enchantment a witch put on her.
- Faceless Eye: The eyes that stare at Pat through the window.
- Final Girl: Suzy.
- Follow the Leader: Argento says it's a fairy tale, inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, the plot follows more closely with Hansel and Gretel.
- Gorn: During Pat's murder, the killer stabs so deeply you can actually see her heart being punctured, but that's only the beginning. The Magnum release is the only American release with every frame of footage (even the recent DVD releases are missing anywhere from a few frames to a few seconds of footage), and the R-rated cut is only available in a pan-and-scan release, while the uncut version is available in both pan-and-scan and letterboxed releases.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Surprisingly, when Sara's throat is being slashed, we barely see the knife slicing and then we get a closeup of her eyes. Surprising, considered what we saw during Pat's murder.
- He Knows Too Much: The reason why the two girls are killed.
- Human Pincushion: Pat's friend is impaled by falling glass when Pat's dead falls through the sky light.
- Improbably Female Cast: The main characters are all female. The male character with the most dialogue in the film is the psychiatrist, and he has only one scene at the end.
- Infant Immortality: Averted, Albert is killed along with the rest of the coven once Helena Markos dies.
- Invisibility: One of the special abilities of the Mother of Sighs, Helena Markos. She tries to trick the protagonist with this ability, but it doesn't work.
- Large Ham: Helena Markos in the American dub, ad nauseam.
- Leitmotif: There are a few, but the 14-note motif used at the very beginning (entitled "Suspiria", natch) re-appears eight additional times.
- Load-Bearing Boss: Helena Markos.
- Mauve Shirt: Pat, her friend, and Daniel.
- Mind Screw
- No Name Given: The actress portraying the Directoress Helena Markos, the titular Mother of Sighs receives no casting credit. According to the co-writer of the script, she was a former prostitute found in Rome, but apparently nobody knows anything more about her.
- No Ontological Inertia: When Suzy kills the Mother of Sighs, the reanimated corpse pursuing her instantly disappears and soon after that the entire school burns down. This is explained by the eradication of the black magic present there which was accumulated and structured in the form of a coven by Helena Markos.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Not a lot actually happens for most of the movie, but the lurid colors and strange sets create an unsettling atmosphere that's gotten under your skin long before any deaths beyond the first two occur.
- One-Gender School
- Red Right Hand: The incredibly ugly porter.
- Scars Are Forever: After Suzy kills Helena Markos, the Directoress she becomes visible and you can see her burn scars from the fire that nearly killed her.
- Scenery Porn
- Slashed Throat: Sara, Suzy's friend, has her throat slashed with a straight razor while trapped in a room full of razor wire.
- Slipping a Mickey: The witches-in-disguise slip a drug in Suzy's wine that comes complimentary with her meals.
- Sole Survivor: Once the main heroine kills the head witch (Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs), the building starts to collapse, and the moment she leaves, it bursts into flames, supposedly killing every single person within the building except for the main heroine. Luckily, that includes none of the student body as they were on a field trip to the theatre.
- Spanner in the Works: Were it not for one of the teachers bringing many of the students on an unexpected field trip, the death toll from the destruction of the school after Suzy defeats Helena Markos would've been much higher. The witches were on to Suzy and set up the field trip to ensure there would be no witnesses to her death. Ironically, that just ended up saving more lives when Suzy came out on top.
- Surreal Horror
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The first murder in particular is astoundingly brutal, often earning a place on lists of the most grisly murders in cinema.
- Token Good Teammate: The teacher that took the students to see a play and in the process quite possibly saved their lives when the school went down with Helena Markos.
- Trash the Set: The Academy's self-imploding.
- Vader Breath: While sleeping in the dance studio due to the school being fumigated for maggots, Sara knows that Helena Markos, the founder of the dance school and The Mother of Sighs, is in the room with them because of her loud, wheezy breathing.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The story was inspired to co-scriptwriter Daria Nicolodi by a story about her grandmother having run away from a music academy in which they also taught evil witchcraft.
- Dario Argento later admitted that this was purely fabricated.
- Viewers Are Morons: The out-of-place and totally unnecessary narration in the opening credits of the film.
- Wicked Witch: Helena Markos, the Big Bad, she's ancient, she cackles, and curses people.