Film / Suspiria

"The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of Suspiria are the first 92."note 
— Tagline

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 Dario Argento film, Suspiria 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 (2007).

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.

A remake is slated for fall 2018, with Dakota Johnson in the lead role, and Luca Guadagnino in the director's chair, who has stated it will not be a straight remake but more of a reimagining of the basic concept (specifically a "homage" to the feelings he had watching the original).

"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?
  • Arc Words: "Secret irises."
    • Although it turns out that these were actually the only words that Suzy heard of a longer set of instructions, which she eventually remembers at the end of the film.
  • 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.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: When the killer attacks.
  • Color Wash: Red. Everything is red.
    • Or blue.
    • Or green.
    • Or yellow, and believe us when we say that bright, saturated colors like these have never looked less cheerful than they do in this film.
  • 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 of a Child: Albert is killed along with the rest of the coven once Helena Markos dies.
  • 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. Prior to that is a more straightforward example: Seeing how Albert was part of the coven, it's likely that the dog recognized him as evil, which is what provoked him to attack.
  • 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.
  • Faceless Eye: The eyes that stare at Pat through the window.
  • Fainting: Suzy faints during ballet practice supposedly because of anemia. It's actually because of an enchantment a witch put on her.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs: Argento has said that the story was inspired by Snow White (Wicked Witches targeting helpless young girls) and it also has a lot in common with Hansel & Gretel.
  • Femme Fatalons: Helena Markos fingernails are noticeably long and sharp.
  • Final Girl: Suzy has elements of this before the trope had been popularized by Laurie Strode of Halloween (1978) - as a responsible, studious brunette who outwits the bad guys.
  • 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 Pat is murdered by Markos.
    • Also presumably the reason the witches make Suzy ill, move her into the school, and drug her food in the first place; she saw Pat flee, and might know something. And when she lets it slip that Pat was taking to someone else, they target Sara too.
  • Human Pincushion: Pat's friend is impaled by falling glass when Pat's dead body falls through the sky light.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Big Bad is barely recognisable as a human being thanks to her being "the Black Queen."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Musical Spoiler: In this case, literally, as the Golbin score will sometimes have a loud whispered WITCH!. Nothing in the film indicates the presence of witches til late in the film.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Suzy is a new student at the school and doesn't get the weird goings on.
  • 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-Word Title
  • 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: This is probably one of the prettiest horror movies ever filmed. Take note of the gaudy interior design of Pat's friend's apartment complex.
  • Shout-Out: The school is apparently situated on a street called Escherstrasse. Not coincidentally, several rooms in the film (including one outside the school, in a murder victim's apartment) feature Escher or Escher-esque motifs on the walls.
  • 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
  • Thematic Series: Along with Inferno and Mother of Tears in the Three Mothers Trilogy.
  • 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.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: It's pretty obvious Suzy and Mark like each other, but it never gets past the flirting stage.
  • 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.
  • White Shirt of Death: Pat, her friend and Sarah all wear white as they're brutally murdered.
  • Wicked Witch: Helena Markos, the Big Bad, she's ancient, she cackles, and curses people.