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Film / Suspiria (2018)

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"It's all a mess. The one out there...the one in here...the one that's coming. Why is everyone so ready to think the worst is over?"
Susie Bannon

Suspiria is a 2018 supernatural horror film directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by David Kajganich, starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, and Mia Goth among others, with music composed by Thom Yorke. It is a very loose remake of the 1977 Dario Argento classic of the same name.

In 1977 West Berlin, Susie Bannon (Dakota Johnson) is a young American woman studying at one of the most renowned dance schools in the world: the Markos Tanz Company. As her skills gain the attention of head artistic director and choreographer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), a series of mysterious disappearances occurs, leading Susie, her friend Sara (Mia Goth), and the grieving elderly psychologist Dr. Josef Klemperer ("Lutz Ebersdorf" note ) towards an investigation into the school that reveals dark secrets that the instructors likely wished to keep hidden.


Guadagnino's Suspiria takes the original's story and atmosphere in a wholly different direction, changing its setting to the same year the original was released and eschewing Argento's famous exaggerated color schemes for bleak, wintry tones, among other modifications. He has described the film as an homage to the emotions he felt watching the original more than an explicit remake of it.

Suspiria contains examples of:

  • The '70s: The German Autumn of 1977 is a background event for the plot thread concerning Patricia and her disappearance from the academy. The Berlin Wall is prominent in nearly every exterior shot.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Suzy in the original had dark brown hair, while Susie in the remake is a redhead.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Susie. She violently takes over the coven at the end of the film and may have been a witch the whole time. On the other hand, her civil treatment of Dr. Klemperer and expelling the more heinous witches of the coven puts her more in an Adaptational Badass role.
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  • Ambiguous Situation: Was Susie an ambitious-if-naïve dancer who was corrupted by the coven's magic into becoming a vessel for Mother Suspiriorum even before the Volk ritual was completed, or was she Mother Suspiriorum the whole time, and used the events of the movie as a way to prove who was loyal to her and exact revenge on those who weren't?
  • And I Must Scream: Patricia, Olga, and Sara being put in intense Body Horror situations. The worst part is they are still dancing against their will while injured horribly. Sara was even disemboweled and was still standing like nothing happened.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Susie becomes Mater Suspiriorum and defeats Markos and her cohorts with the help of Death itself and Madame Blanc survives despite a grievous injury. On the other hand, Patricia, Olga and Sara are dead (though are given graceful Mercy Kills) and Josef Klemperer has his memory wiped by Susie/Suspiriorum as a merciful gesture and to prevent him from exposing the existence of the witches.
  • Body Horror: Oh, mother.
    • A key sequence in the film features Olga having her body violently twisted and her bones broken. The worst part? She's still alive afterwards.
    • Sara literally breaking a leg in the Volk sequence.
    • Helena Markos is an intensely aged, hideously decrepit, naked witch who has a baby's arm sticking out of hers and a baby's face for a vagina.
    • Susie's transformation into Mother Suspiriorum is signified by her forming a massive, gaping, bloody vagina in her chest.
    • When Sara finally finds Patricia, the room she is in is filled with discarded yet still alive dancers. One of them appears to be made of two pairs of legs vertically fused together. This is easy to miss - it's at the left of the final moment of that scene writhing, not the similar but less horrific thing approaching Sara as she tries to dislodge Patricia.
    • Sara, in a trance during the final ritual, being graphically disemboweled, remaining standing and seemingly-unaffected as her intestines are splattered to the ground.
  • Color Wash: The climactic sequence bathes the chaos in a red filter.
  • Composite Character:
    • The remake's version of Sara takes on part of the role filled by the original Susie Bannion, being the one who leads the investigation into the coven.
    • Susie is Mother Suspiriorum in this version.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: Sara switching eye colors with Susie in the Volk sequence. Susie's turn brown.
  • Chromosome Casting: All of the film's significant characters are women except for Dr. Klemperer (who's still played by a woman.)
  • Death by Adaptation: Olga, who simply disappeared from the story in the original film, gets the first prominent death scene in this version.
  • Decomposite Character: Helena Markos and Mother Suspiriorum are two separate entities in this iteration; just who Mother Suspiriorum is becomes a key part of The Reveal (for more info, see Composite Character).
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Unlike the 1977 original, the remake subverts this as the witches never kill anybody in a public place or do any other outlandish acts, and they erase the memories of the witnesses. Also, the recent RAF crisis gives them Plausible Deniability regarding the disappearances of their students.
  • Drone of Dread: Hidden between dissonant pianos and Krautrock weirdness, quite a few numbers in Thom Yorke's score love this trope; "The Epilogue" takes the cake for its last minute almost verging on infrasound.
  • Fan Disservice: In the finale, most of the dance company is naked, and Susie is wearing a Navel-Deep Neckline robe. Even though they're all young and beautiful, however, the jerky, frenetic movements of the dancers (plus the strong implication they can't stop), combined with Susie's Vagina Dentata right between her breasts and the general amount of blood and gore, makes it all very unsexy.
  • Foreshadowing: There are hints that become evident on rewatch foreshadowing that Susie is Mother Suspiriorum.
    • Before her audition, Susie nervously scratches her sternum. When she fully awakens as Mother Suspiriorum, she pulls the flesh of her sternum apart in a yonic gash over her heart.
    • Much sound-design emphasis is placed on the strenuous nature of Susie's dance, particularly exhalations from the physical exertion. The whole film, Susie is being associated with sighs.
    • We see that as a child, Susie was interested in studying Germany, perhaps subconsciously aware the followers of Mother Suspiriorum were located there.
    • Susie is ex-Amish and abandoned the faith and her home because she didn't suit the lifestyle. Being an ancient witch may have also had something to do with her incompatibility.
    • Susie's nightmares from Madame Blanc begin to mix in more concrete imagery from her own past, indicating that she is gaining control of the psychic link between herself and Blanc and has magic of her own.
    • As the film progresses, Susie starts to get her own ideas on how the Volk dance should be performed, saying to Madame Blanc that her struggle in the jumping section comes from a feeling that it doesn't fit, and she later takes the dance off-beat and the official performance collapses. Given that Volk is actually a kinetic witchcraft ritual, it seems that the artistic clash was also a clash of magical instincts, with the Suspiriorum within Susie disagreeing with how Blanc has crafted the ritual, as well as knowing it cannot actually work as long as Susie is the vessel.
    • Miss Griffith seems to have a more sensitive, weak, empathic nature, as shown by her silence, skittishness in the first scene overlooking Susie, and when she cries at the same time Olga does elsewhere. She also shocks the matrons by abruptly stabbing herself in the neck and ending her life. These all taken together seem to hint that she was able to sense something terrible, like Susie being the true Mother Suspiriorum, which would mean the tensions and pressures Griffith was unwillingly caught up in were entirely misguided and likely to doom those, including her, who voted for Markos.
    • Susie's dying mother remarks that Susie is her sin and the stain she smears on the world, and the lighting turns harshly red as a claw crosses her face. Susie being the ancient witch reborn would justify that statement, and we see that the red lighting and black claw were manifestations of Death, who Suspiriorum commands in the finale with the same visuals.
    • A costume hint that has roots in homage to the original film's genre— as Susie matures and joins the matrons' dinner, she wears a more assertive grown-up ensemble paired with black leather gloves. The giallo film genre the original Suspiria hailed from famously used heavy costumes featuring black gloves (often focused on on kill scenes) to obscure the identity of the killer or primary threat in the film.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When we first see Susie, she's walking down the stairs of a German train station. The platform on screen left is labeled SUSPIRIA. See it here.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Susie. It's a very different direction compared to the more typical heroine Suzy of the original.
  • Gorn: Hoo boy. Argento would be proud.
  • Homage: Director Luca Guadagnino has described the film as more of an homage to the feelings he had while watching the original movie for the first time as opposed to a strict retelling of the story.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Helena Markos, as mentioned above. She looks like a mass of cancerous growths and has excess, vestigial limbs growing out of her body.
    • How do you one-up Markos? By DEATH ITSELF arriving in the form of a tall, cadaverous woman that can kill with just a kiss.
  • Improbably Female Cast: Much like the original film, the cast is largely female. This was part of the reason for the elaborate production/marketing hoax with Swinton playing the psychologist under heavy makeup and a pseudonym, to include Klemperer's male presence in the story while still keeping the cast almost entirely female.
  • Important Haircut: Susie gets a haircut in preparation for the dance exhibition, symbolizing her growth from ingénue to lead performer.
  • Ironic Echo: "No other mother." First said by "Mother" Markos to Susie. Then re-stated by Mother Suspiriorum as she cleans house of all those who backed Helena.
  • Kiss of Death: Susie seals each request for a Mercy Kill with a kiss. The avatar of Death kills off Markos and her followers the same way, though the way it does so ends in Your Head Asplode with the exception or Markos who seems to have had her soul sucked out with her body beginning to decompose instantly.
  • The Lost Lenore: Anke, who was revealed to have died in the hands of Nazis at Theresienstadt.
  • Meaningful Echo: Earlier in the film, a staff member plays that she is Madame Blanc when detectives come by, saying "I am she" to get them through and out faster. Later in the film, Helena Markos claims herself to be Mother Suspiriorum, to which Susie, visiting the ritual, says "I am she", revealing herself to be the true lead witch.
  • Mercy Kill: Given to a very willing Patricia, Olga, and Sara at the end, who have been brutally wounded, mutilated and are walking corpses.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Susie, coming to the academy without any knowledge of its goings-on. Allegedly. It's not clear whether or not her ignorance was only an act the whole time.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Susie has two equally bizarre ones that turn out to be Blanc's initial means of telepathically communicating with her.
  • Not His Sled: Like the 1977 original, the dance school is obviously run by witches, but in this version even the witches doubt if the legend about Mother Suspiriorum is true. The ending reveals that the elderly witch Helena Markos is not Mother Suspiriorum, Susie Bannion is.
  • Oh, Crap!: Helena Markos when she realizes that Susie isn't what/who she appears to be.
  • Ominous Walk: During the sabbath Death's avatar just casually strolls around the room, delivering its judgment on Markos' supporters one by one. They don't even try to flee as they know they would never escape Death.
  • One-Word Title: Simply Suspiria.
  • Plausible Deniability: Unlike the original, which was based on the Anthropic Principle that all the outrageous murders of anybody who gets on the witches' bad side are just ignored by everybody except the protagonist, in this version the ongoing RAF crisis helps the witches hide the disappearances of their students from the authorities, and also they use hypnosis to get rid of the policemen who (rather reluctantly and superficially) investigate the disappearances.
  • Popularity Cycle: This is how the Markoz Tanz Company or at least the coven part works. The teachers pick a favorite who they use for their spells in exchange for better dance skills before torturing and draining them. This is shown as happening to Patricia, and after Patricia's disappearance, they pick Susie out to be the next victim. But Susie is Mother Suspiriorum.
  • Practical Effects: Most of the gore and Body Horror makes use of these rather than CGI. This behind the scenes video goes into more detail (warning: contains spoilers and NSFW content).
  • Psychic Link: Susie and Blanc form one. Blanc initially creates the bond through planting nightmares in Susie's head, and once she reciprocates the two are able to converse with their thoughts.
  • Remake Cameo: Jessica Harper (the original Suzy) has a small role as Anke.
  • Right in Front of Me: The witches' final ceremony is brought to an abrupt end when Susie asks Markos which of the three mothers she represents. When Markos responds that she has inherited the position of Mother Suspiriorum, Susie responds, "I am she."
  • Sickening "Crunch!":
    • During Olga's horrific torture, several of her bones break.
    • When Sara leaves backstage before Volk, she's punished by holes forming in the floor; her leg falls into one, and it graphically snaps in half.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Thom Yorke's beautiful, forlorn piano-driven song "Unmade" plays as Susie/Mother Suspiriorum, the avatar of Death, strolls around the sabbath chamber killing left and right, giving an otherwise disturbing sequence an air of haunting tragedy.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To the original film, believe it or not. Putting the two films side-by-side is one of the best examples possible of how two filmmakers can take virtually the exact same premise and come away with two radically different takes on it, from their visual styles to the beats of the story and how they progress.
  • The Stinger: Susie is seen touching the heart carved in Klemperer's cottage.
  • Sweetie Graffiti: Klemperer and Anke's cottage has a heart carved into an outside corner, with their initials. The last shot of the film is of the cottage, now occupied by a new family, with the heart faded but still present. Susie is seen touching it at the stinger too.
  • Unconventional Formatting: A poster of an upcoming performance in the film, some of its promotional materials, and even movie tickets make use of randomly aligned letters that look like the words they form just splattered into position. Even their Twitter account liked to invoke this every so often.
  • Wham Line: When the figure of Death enters the ritual room, Susie asks Markos which of the Three Mothers appointed her leader of the Coven, to which Markos says Mother Suspiriorum did. Susie's response then twists everything on its head for the movie.
    Susie: I am she.
  • Your Head Asplode: When Mother Suspiriorum returns to the coven, this happens to every member who had voted to keep Helena Markos in power.