Suspiria: The Three Mothers Explained

Suspiria - Helena Markos

The first full-length trailer for Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria, a remake of the 1977 classic horror film by Dario Argento, is finally here. Amid a collection of creepy visions and horrible, bone-cracking noises, the trailer offers some insight into the movie's plot, which appears to loosely follow the original while also adding its own characters and twists. Chief among the most intriguing things in the trailer is the mention of the "Three Mothers, three gods, three devils - Mother Tenebrarum, Mother Lachrymarum, and Mother Suspiriorum. Darkness, tears, and sighs."

Those who have only seen Suspiria may not be familiar with the mythology of the Three Mothers, but they are the key to a trilogy of Argento films. Mother Suspiriorum, also known as Helena Markos, is the leader of the witch coven in Suspiria. Mother Tenebrarum is the final villain of Argento's 1980 film Inferno, and Mother Lachrymarum is the antagonist of the final chapter in the trilogy, The Mother of Tears, which was released in 2007.

Related: Suspiria Trailer

Although we met the first of the Three Mothers in Suspiria, it wasn't until Inferno that Argento fully laid out the mythology, in a book written by an architect and alchemist called Varelli:

"I... met the Three Mothers and designed and built for them three dwelling places. One in Rome, one in New York, and a third in Freiburg, Germany. I failed to discover until too late that from those three locations the Three Mothers rule the world with sorrow, tears, and darkness. Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs and the oldest of the three, lives in Freiburg. Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears and the most beautiful of the sisters, holds rule in Rome. Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness, who is the youngest and cruelest of the three, controls New York. And I built their horrible houses - the repositories of all their filthy secrets. Those so-called mothers are actually wicked stepmothers, incapable of creating life."

The land upon which the three houses stand eventually becomes corrupted and poisoned by the witches' influence - so much so that the air around it reeks. In each of the houses there is also a cellar, with a picture of the Mother who lives there, and her true name.

Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Inferno and The Mother of Tears


Inferno takes place in New York, in an apartment building that is actually the home of Mother Tenebrarum (pictured above). In the film's opening act, a young poet called Rose stumbles across Tenebrarum's secret cellar, which is filled with water and corpses. After Rose is later killed, her brother arrives in New York to try and find her, and discovers that Varelli is still alive - mute and wheelchair-bound, and still a slave to Mother Tenebrarum. As in Suspiria, the Mother is ultimately defeated as her building burns and collapses around her. In this movie we also meet Mother Lachrymarum, who disguises herself as a beautiful young music student and attempts to bewitch the protagonist.

The Mother of Tears

Finally, in The Mother of Tears, the young and cruel Lachrymarum (pictured above) takes center stage in Rome, leading a cult of cannibalistic followers. The movie concludes in a similar way to the previous two, with the witch's lair collapsing around her and killing her.

Though the mention of the Three Mothers by name might seem to point to a sequel, or to Tenebrarum and Lachrymarum making an appearance in Guadagnino's film, a brief glimpse of a notebook in the trailer points elsewhere. Beneath their names in the notebook (which presumably belongs to Chloë Grace Moretz's character, Patricia) is written: "Today there is only her, one of them and at the same time not... Mother Markos, a shadow over my story." That strongly implies that both Tenebrarum and Lachrymarum have already been defeated by the time Guadagnino's Suspiria begins.

As for Mother Suspiriorum - at one point in the trailer we see a clawed hand, and in another we see a straggly-haired monster with clawed hands crawling across the floor, drenched in red. It's likely that this is our first glimpse of Helena Markos, and she certainly looks suitably terrifying. Without a doubt, Suspiria will be a movie to watch out for this year, but it will also be interesting to see if Helena Markos' sisters play a role at all, and if Guadagnino has added his own twist to the Three Mothers.

More: Suspiria Remake Is 'Closest To Modern Stanley Kubrick', Says Moretz

Key Release Dates
  • Suspiria (2018) release date: Nov 02, 2018
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