FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 31, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 31: we're at the end

Well, reader, here we are, at the end of this mad endeavor. They said it couldn't be done! They said it shouldn't be done! They said...okay, so no one said either of those things. But I've certainly never attempted anything like this 31-day examination of a single film before. It's been a bit exhausting at times, but always an interesting undertaking. Somehow, a month in, there are still things left to say, avenues to explore, nuances and moments to revere. Every time I think I hit bottom, I find there's yet more digging to do. I think I'll keep going. Maybe not here, necessarily. I might try to expand what I've done in a multitude of ways and work on something long form. I don't know where such a thing might find a home, but we'll see. My enthusiasm and love for Suspiria certainly haven't waned. Kind of remarkable to me, since it's been almost a year to the day since I saw it the first time. In fact, I dug this out of my instagram to check the date:

That caption makes me laugh...I was so excited for this movie! So excited, in fact, that I traveled for a couple of hours to catch it opening weekend, as it didn't play in my town for another week or so. (Of course, I saw it a few times when it finally arrived.)

Still, I certainly wasn't expecting it to affect me the way it did. I figured I'd like it: the cast is terrific, I am the leader of the sovereign nation of Dakotastan, I love the original film. But I love Dario Argento's movie...mmm, aesthetically. I love the idea of it. Jessica Harper is, of course, a perfect icon. But it never, like, grabbed me by the soul emotionally, you know? So I never anticipated that Luca Guadagnino's film would cast such a spell on me. But, well, we are.

I was going to post about an actual, uh, something. But I think I'll save it for another time, maybe another place. Right now I just want to say Happy Halloween–another SHOCKtober in the books!–and thanks to everyone who's taken the time to read Final Girl this month, who's left a comment here or on The Social Medias with your thoughts and the such. It's been quite a ride! Tomorrow is a new day 'round these parts, for it dawns the first-ever BLOODvember. I have no idea what I'm doing yet! That sounds about right.

The Suspiria zine I'm putting together will be available November 11. (Of course.) There will be limited hard copies available. It'll also be available digitally. It's a love letter to this deeply queer love letter of a movie from a queer little coven I have assembled (the Markos Zinegruppe!). There will be art and writing, silly things and serious things, all kinds of goodies. I'll post information regarding where to get it when the time comes. I'm really excited about it.

Of Anke Meier, of Patricia Hingle, of Sara Simms, of Susanna Bannion, of all the women of my undoing...uh, thanks? I guess? Hail Mother Suspiriorum. Death to any other movie!

Oct 30, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 30: a bolt of love

Susie Bannion's transformation...evolution, rather...from Ohio farm girl to Mother Suspiriorum is endlessly fascinating. There is much to unpack about our Ms Bannion; as Madame Blanc tells her, "Difficult not to be curious about you."

We can debate when she knew her true nature. We can talk about how she is ultimately a benevolent fascist (for now, anyway) who obliterates the tired dichotomy of "good and evil" while subverting the standard Hero's Journey of myth. But I'm interested in talking about her on a basic, human level today, and that is Susie's evolution as a sexual awakening–a coming out narrative, if you will.

When I see young Susie seated at that table during flashbacks, dreaming of Berlin, I see myself. I didn't grow up on a farm or in a strict, religious household, but I know what she's feeling just the same. Realizing that you are different from everyone around you, but maybe not understanding exactly how or why yet. Knowing, somehow, that there is more for you outside of this environment where you do not fit in as everyone else does–that a life is waiting for you elsewhere. That there are people, somewhere, ready to welcome you with you're just like us. There has to be. I promise you, every gay kid has these thoughts at one time or another. Even if they don't completely understand their sexuality yet, they know they're different. It's a feeling, a distinct feeling that you're juuuust out of step with everyone around you. If you can just get out of this house, this school, this family, this town, you'll find your people. Every gay kid is dreaming of Berlin.

And so Susie steals some money and makes good on her dream. She finds her people.

Back near the start of this month (so long ago already!) I explored the fraught love story between Susie and Sara. It ends too soon and it is heartrending, but it is pure. Before Sara, though–long before Sara–and after Sara, there is Madame Blanc. It begins just seconds after Susie enters the Tanz building for the first time; before she even finishes crossing the lobby, her attention snaps to Blanc's one way mirror. Surely Blanc is standing there, for we get a crash zoom to a close-up of Susie. As Sara and Susie locked eyes before they met, so, too, do Blanc and Susie, in a manner of speaking.

It happens again moments later, during Susie's audition. Without musical accompaniment, she dances in that primal way she has, so affecting that Blanc is startled while instructing in another room. Susie breathes and spins faster and faster, then she's stopped in her tracks. We get another crash zoom, this time on Blanc. For the first time their eyes truly meet. Mandel and Millius turn to look at Blanc, but for the moment she and Susie are in their own world.

After her discussion with Tanner, Susie leaves for her hotel to gather her things. Blanc, back behind her mirror, watches her go with some kind of longing. At the least, she senses that this new girl is...intriguing.

The next day, during her first rehearsal, Susie collapses, overcome by the force of destructive power she temporarily wields. Blanc shows her compassion and kindness, seeing through Susie's brave front (that isn't really a front, is it?), soothing her with words and touch. I've read reviews of this film that see the Susie-Blanc relationship solely as maternal or student-mentor. I suppose this, with Blanc making sure the overwhelmed dancer is okay, supports that.


That evening, Susie is summoned to Blanc's chamber for the erotic chicken wing dinner. I've said it before, but I must say it again: I love how casual Susie is in the first half of this scene. Blanc asks personal questions and pays her compliments, and Susie just...can't be bothered. She spends her time checking out her surroundings, eating, and avoiding many of those personal questions. Sara spoke of Blanc's "light" and how dazzling it was when directed at you, but so far, if Susie feels that way she's playing it cool over the chicken wings. I am tickled by her lack of interest and the way she indulges her curiosities.

Finally, though, she comes out with it. When Blanc talks about what a risk it was for Susie to repeatedly travel to New York without permission, Susie states it plainly: "I felt I had to see you." It's brash enough that Blanc stops chewing for a moment.

Then we cut and it's a few minutes later. They've finished eating. Blanc has moved and lit a cigarette, which...

Well, for the middle third of the scene it's a crutch she's using to hide her nervousness. Susie unnerves her, because Susie is not overwhelmingly dazzled by Blanc's light. While she clearly holds Blanc in great esteem, she's not intimidated by her. She raises herself from the status of "student" to meet her as an equal. No one does that. Who is this farm girl from Ohio?

Blanc sits and asks: "What did it feel today, to dance Volk in front of the one who made it?" but before Susie can answer, Blanc says that's "vain" and rephrases:

"When you were dancing, what did it feel like inside you? Inside your body?"

Now, she wanted the first question stricken from the record, but I think that was disingenuous. I think she wanted Susie to answer it, but simply didn't want to seem as vain as she is. The first question is now in Susie's mind, so she'll be answering to:

"What did it feel like inside you to dance my dance in front of me?"

If Blanc expected Susie to turn bashful, to praise her work, to say it was an honor, that's certainly not what she got. Susie very forthrightly states: "It felt like what I think it must feel like to fuck."

"You mean to fuck a man?" Blanc replies, immediately taking a drag on her cigarette. Nerves.

"No, I was thinking of an animal."

Blanc is still off-guard. Laughs it off. Then she says, "You looked..."

And the moment hangs there and hangs there and hangs there while they look at each other. You can hear Blanc breathing.


And she changes the subject back to dance. It's an enthralling sequence, watching these two seduce each other and battle for dominance. It's a duel, and they're trying to out-top each other....and Blanc loses. She's not accustomed to this. Here is Susie, constantly challenging, confronting, and instigating with her. She's forced to drop her "dazzling" artifice, and she's both frightened by and attracted to this new dancer. After all, Susie has delivered the coup de grâce that is the surefire way to seduce any art fag: tell her that fucking feels like art and art feels like fucking. Blanc loses her words.

The next day, Blanc initiates the new dance, "Rebirth," asking Susie to lead the improvisation. On the one hand, this is another one of Blanc's insidious techniques to make Susie amenable to the idea of being the vessel for Markos's rebirth. On the other hand, she's interested to see where "Susie's instincts" will lead. They lead to getting horny for the floor.

Part of that, of course, is the abhorrent pull of Markos down there in her storage closet. But Susie is nothing if not a horny young woman was "repressed" not by guilt or obligation, but only by a lack of opportunities back in Ohio. She's got the hots for Sara and she's got the hots for Blanc, and if either of them would have just responded to her very, very obvious cues instead of shying away, well, we'd all be a lot happier. Especially Susie.

Instead, Blanc makes do by sending Susie wet dreams at night.

Yeah, they're full of horrifying, violent images. Yeah, they're full of art. But as Susie's writhing and heavy breathing make clear, ultimately they're wet dreams.

Before the private jump rehearsal scene starts in earnest, Sara is looking for Susie. Another dancer says, laughing, "Maybe she's seeing somebody." Girl, if you only knew.

I've written about this scene Blanc and Susie have one night before, how telling it is that Susie wants to be the Company's hands. How she lets Blanc know by making yet another overture.

The rest of it plays out like a sex scene. Susie's feet thumping like a bedpost as she jumps, Blanc shouting "Higher! Higher! Higher!" faster and faster, Susie breathing faster and faster, it keeps building in intensity until Susie performs one big jump. Sometimes she only needs to be told twice.

Before the pre-Sabbath dinner, Blanc comes to Susie's room. They speak telepathically about Volk. Blanc sits on Susie's bed, moves closer, takes her hands.

"I could explain everything to you," she says. "I think it would be wrong, though."

Susie brings Blanc's hand to her cheek. "You don't want to make me choose. Because you love me."

There is a hugely important music cue there. The track piano refrain heard in several tracks (ie "The Balance of Things") has been playing. It's spare and a bit spooky. But when Susie says "Because you love me," the music changes to the opening of "The Conjuring of Anke," the beautiful, melancholic track we hear when Josef and Anke reunite. It's the closest thing Suspiria has to a love theme.

Ah yes. Strictly maternal, this is.

The first time I saw this movie, I was absolutely sure that Blanc and Susie were going to kiss. In fact, somehow, without my permission, the theater took a photo of me right around the moment Susie put Blanc's hand on her cheek:

But no. Blanc leaves. However, then we get the dinner of seduction, where all the witches are all over the dancers, casting their spells. There's Blanc and Susie, right in the middle of all the singing and eating and activity, their plates bare, their eyes boring into one another.

Yeah, they're fucking.

Side note: Susie's dress? Which is undoubtedly Sara's dress? *chef kiss*

Bliss is short-lived, though. It's time for the Sabbath and the coming of Mother Suspiriorum. We know how that ends for Sara, and we know how it ends for Blanc. Suspiriorum–or Susie–has tenderness for both. She ends Sara's life with a kiss and cradles her. She's not at her full powers yet (or maybe she's holding back) when Markos nearly decapitates Blanc. But still, she cannot bear to watch it, and it brings her to tears.

And, of course, at the end of things Blanc still lives. Perhaps she was too powerful for Markos to kill. Perhaps, seeing that Blanc tried to save Susie Bannion's life, Suspiriorum saved hers. We'll probably never know what becomes of them now.

But we've seen Susie Bannion's journey in its entirety. We watched her get out of that farmhouse like she always dreamt she would, we saw her find her people. We watched her unrealized passions become fulfilled. We saw her puppy love with Sara, the kind of love full of secrets and sweet whispers. We saw her seduce her idol, the kind of love full of hands and animal desire. We saw her rip herself open, fully embracing her primal, carnal side, becoming who she was meant to be. And throughout all of it, sighs.

Oct 29, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 29: sie sind hexen

I admit it, in my early viewings of this film, my feelings about the opening scene were tainted by my feelings about Chloë Grace Moretz. Basically, I have never been blown away her acting, at least not since she was much younger (she was great on 30 Rock and I thought she was the best part of the Let the Right One In remake...oh and Clouds of Sils Maria.). I think I was too "Why does she get all the roles? She's not the only actor around that age! Why not Anya Taylor-Joy?" You know, just bein' an old horror blogger yelling at a cloud. While I certainly didn't think she was bad as Patricia or that she stunk up the joint, I did feel that she was the weak link in a movie where everyone is doing, like, accolades-worthy work.

But hot dang! Watching it again (and again) (and ag--) during this month of insanity has me saying "Shut up, old horror blogger! You don't know nothin'!" The opening scene (and especially Moretz) really set the tone for what's to come and boy, we're knocked off-balance right from the start.

We hear the rain–that incessant Berlin rain–and running feet and chanting over a black screen, then we see Patricia, alone in the middle of a riot.

She seems terribly frightened. We'll soon learn that she's afraid of Helena Markos, but she's also afraid of the chaos around her: the yelling, the violence, the smoke bombs. This reaction is, I think, what has Olga so sure later on that Patricia isn't in a basement somewhere filling bottles with petrol. Patricia may have romanticized or admired the RFA, but she wasn't a terrorist. She's not joining in here, and Olga knows that Patricia isn't "missing" by choice.

Patricia bursts into Klemperer's office with a bang and a purpose, pounding on the door and the doorbell madly while softly singing bits of Nico's melancholic "Fairest of the Seasons" to herself. (Side note: What is it with witches' affinities for Nico tracks? Her song with The Velvet Underground, "All Tomorrow's Parties" figured very heavily into Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem.)

Dr. Klemperer immediately senses that Patricia is in some kind of spiral, and so do we. It's not only Patricia's mutterings and physicality, though that's a large part of it. Unceremoniously dropping her bags and shoes, folding and unfolding herself on the furniture and windowsill...she is a live wire, vaguely menacing, maybe a bit dangerous, and Klemperer gives her a wide berth.

What's notable is that the editing is frantic as well. Much of Suspiria comprises long takes, whether it's a closeup of a character or a complex set piece. This gives actors time to shine and lets the audience soak in every detail. Even the horrific scenes tend to be full of long takes–we're forced to see and hear every snap of Olga's bones, every unnatural bend and stretch of her limbs. But this office scene, particularly in its earliest moments, is a rapid-fire series of shots. Closeups of hair and hands and books upon books, up high and down low...we can't catch our breath and it feels claustrophobic. You start to feel like Patricia's madness is leaking out from the screen.

Also, one of those closeups is on Klemperer's biscuit and while I know European food can be...austere, shall we say (probably more so for those who lived through war rationing)...this is clearly the unappealing kind of food that A Very Serious Man would eat.

Right? That thing tells us that this doctor is not going to truck with Patricia's fancies. He's not enjoying an apple or something, he's much more utilitarian than that. It looks like he may have just ripped of a part of his desk for lunch.

And so when Patricia outright calls the women of Markos Tanzgruppe "witches," he is taken aback. The moment is very subtly punctuated by a few quiet, ominous notes of music and an explosion outside.

"And you think they can hear you now?"

Patricia gives a small nod and we cut to the hallway, which is dark and sinister and the whispers begin.

Back in the office, the whispers continue as we get shots of random corners and objects. It reminds me of the series of shots at the end of John Carpenter's know, after Dr. Loomis looks down in the yard but Michael Myers is gone. Carpenter points the camera at all kinds of dark corners and we hear Michael breathing. That movie ends leaving the audience feeling like the Boogeyman could be anywhere, while Suspiria begins that way. No matter what Klemperer thinks, no matter if he's decided that Patricia is we know that she's right about the Matrons and they're here.

"Now she can see me," Patricia whispers, and by this point we're feeling mighty unsettled. So is Patricia, who notices that there are eyes everywhere in the room and promptly sets about covering them up. It definitely seems like she's in the middle of a major mental break, but she ain't wrong. Not only do we hear the whispers; one of the eyes on a book spine certainly echoes the all-seeing eye in Helena Markos's room in the 1977 film.

In the midst of this sudden chaos, Patricia inadvertently damages a photograph of Anke. This is what gets Klemperer on his feet at last, and the tenderness and reverence he shows are so wonderful. We don't know the story of the woman in the photo yet, but we immediately know how important and loved she is–or was. While he certainly doesn't care about enjoying some goddamn flavor with his lunch, he cares greatly for her, still.

It also makes him a bit angry, doesn't it? He seems like he's going to give his wayward patient a dressing down, but he holds back. In fact, he has offered her nothing the entire time she's been there, except perhaps an open ear. No advice, no soothing words, nothing. What can he offer, I suppose? She seems to have completely lost touch with reality and likely needs hospitalization. But he doesn't suggest it and Patricia makes to leave.

When she gets to the door she stops. She's a bit calmer, but clearly terrified of what the Matrons will do to her if–when–they find out she talked to him. She briefly rests her head on his chest, maybe as a final goodbye. Although Klemperer doesn't move, it's the last moment of comfort Patricia will get in this life.

I wonder what people who knew nothing about either version of Suspiria thought of Patricia in this scene. Did they simply think she was mad? Or did they buy in to her "delusions"? Even though a year ago I wasn't super into her performance, I never doubted her for a second. If she's mad, it's because they made her that way. Sie sind Hexen and they are everywhere.

Oct 28, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 28: details

Can you believe that 31 Days of Suspiria is almost over? There are only a couple of posts left (not that, you know, October 31st will be the last day I ever talk about it or something) so I wanted to highlight some of the details both large and micromicro that have contributed to this movie ruling my world. Stuff like...

Susie and Sara breaking my heart yet again with this split-second of eye contact during Volk.

They are way past the point of no return here. Sara has been irreparably damaged, and they are both a part of something much larger than either of them, something they cannot stop whether they want to or not. But even through everything that's transpired, even in the middle of a performance, they find each other. Watching Sara wordlessly plead with Susie during the entirety of her time in Volk is completely heartrending, but this small moment kills me.

This shot.

Gorgeous. Ominous. Yes.

Klemperer leaving this newspaper advertising Volk on the train.

It's a nice bit of foreshadowing. He has no idea that that show is going to wreck his whole world.

Klemperer fastidiously dusting.

I am hoping to post about Josef and Anke before this month is through, but this is one of the touches I wanted to highlight now. He takes such care of this sacred place and it's beautiful and yes, heartbreaking. I told you Suspiria was full of tragedies!

Boutaher being cool as fuck.

I should have mentioned this moment during Griffith's suicide dinner party yesterday when Boutaher got a shout out, but I was focused on another moment. If you came away from that thinking "Okay, but is she cool, though?" I present the above photo evidence. And this is before she starts pulling from a beer bottle. Iconic.

This shot.

I know that shortly after this she rips her fucking chest open but this shot, this is the one for me. Stunning. Luca's camera loves every one of these women and it radiates.

Frau Sesame.

I just want to give a shout-out to Frau Sesame the caring and ever-reliable. In a world composed almost entirely of madness, she is always a dose of sanity. The kindness and gentleness in her voice in the epilogue, when Klemperer doesn't recognize get the feeling that they might just be okay. She's the real mother in this film.

Jessica goddamned Harper.

Okay, as I said, Josef and Anke deserve their own post. But look at her here: giving a masterclass of acting in one facial expression. We know by this point that something is up. Anke's reappearance is too good to be true. The border guards are awfully unconcerned with this couple walking through a checkpoint (a nice contrast with the bureaucracy we saw earlier in the film). But her face. She's conveying the gravity and grief and bittersweet happiness Anke would feel, but simultaneously there's another layer to it–a hint of malice, a tinge of the ruse. I know horror fans don't sleep on Jessica Harper, but this shot alone should have the world at her feet.

The breakfast scene.

Boy oh boy, the breakfast scene. The kitchen and dining room slowly fill up with Matrons as the camera moves around and through them. "Has Ended" plays while the voiceovers give us the results of the Markos/Blanc vote. It's the most erotic group breakfast I've ever seen, and I've been to Denny's after all the church people show up, so I know erotic group breakfasts!

We've got Vendegast greeting the day in her super hot racy negligée.

Pavla casually showing us how limber she is because, you know, dancing. Also if you notice the doorway in the back of the shot, you see part of a trend: nearly all of them enter the scene in pairs.

Huller swaggers into the room (with her Operation: Get Klemperer cohort Alberta) looking like she just got laid.

Balfour enters and greets Pavla by the face.

This scene is full of interesting pairs and intriguing looks. I'm not saying that the Markos Tanzgruppe is a lesbian sex coven, but also that's exactly what I'm saying. I mean...

The dinner scene.

The witches need to get the dancers under a spell for the Sabbath, but how do they do it? Not with a look or a small gesture, as we've seen them perform other spells. They do it with seduction.

Also, Caroline's pipe is a choice, no?

Mia fucking Goth.

She is truly jaw-droppingly brilliant in this movie, the real MVP. During the course of Sara's journey, she needs to channel everything: desire, fear, giddiness, worry, grief...basically the whole gamut of human emotion. More than that, she has to convincingly dance and maintain a state of undeath. She does all of it so authentically that I am constantly taken aback by every bit of her performance. I honestly cannot get through the Mutterhaus hallway scene without crying; her screams and pleas for mercy cut right through me.

(Like, seriously: the best horror movie screaming? I've seen so many horror films (duh) and the good screamers are more rare than you'd think. There are several...but Mia Goth is another level. Maybe because it's not about a man or monster chasing her–it's fear and pain and Luca really gives her plenty of time to shine. It's harrowing in ways I can't even comprehend.)

But I wanted to talk about a couple of micromoments in the cake scene, where Dr Klemperer tells her about Patricia's notebook and she tells him to stop bothering her. I'm not going to examine the way she eats that cake, because my longtime cyberpal Jason of My New Plaid Pants recently wrote a terrific piece all about that very thing over at The Film Experience. Go read it. Go read all of his "Great Moments in Horror Actressing" series. And everything else he's written!

In an interview, Goth described some of the background work she and Luca did for her character; you know, what was Sara's family like, what kind of person is she outside of the world of the movie, that type of actor stuff. The big takeaway: Sara's from a wealthy family. You get glimpses of it throughout the film–that wardrobe– but the entire cake scene really drives it home. I love how she conveys it through the tiniest of gestures, like the daintily raised fingers on her right hand as she eats, never quite resting on the plate or table:

Or the very well-mannered way she wipes up a few crumbs as she plots her escape from this nightmare meeting:

Those kinds of details can't be taught. They're not instructions given by the director. Okay, sometimes they are, but in those cases the moments come away as disingenuous. Sometimes you see the actress doing these things and they feel deliberate and inauthentic. In those cases, you can almost hear her process, you know what I mean? "On this word, I will touch the glass of water." That sort of thing.

The gestures Goth does here are natural and nuanced because she's so invested in the character that raising her fingers or wiping the crumbs very particularly become second nature. You don't always think about the way you wipe crumbs, do you? It's just how you wipe crumbs.

The planets definitely aligned for a lot of people on Suspiria. However she came to it, Mia Goth really connected with Sara Simms and thus, so do we. It's amazing. She's still so young, I can't wait to see all the great work she's going to do in what I hope is a long, long career.

This statue in the Mutterhaus art gallery.

Okay, I apologize: the Markos Tanzgruppe isn't a lesbian sex coven.

It's a creepy lesbian sex coven. But then, all the best ones are, I suppose.