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 3, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 3: vendegast

I think it was during the first Gaylords of Darkness episode about Suspiria (#7, "A Sandwich Board and a Big Ol' Bell") I said that if I could be anyone in the movie, I would be DJ Witch (aka Miss Marks). It's not a bad aspiration–she sits around, playing music and watching rehearsals, smoking and looking sullen. She's in on all the action, but she doesn't have to do much. In the (roughly) 30,000 times I've seen the film since then, however, I've changed my tune. The witch I want to be, the one who is quietly the absolute coolest coven member and the star of the show, is Miss Vendegast. I mean, check out at this style queen in her introduction. The glasses! That top! The casually sexy hair! The "I know I'm the shit, now prove yourself to me" attitude! An icon.

She even looks cool as heck as she engages in tasks that are often rather repulsive. Who else could look so saucy while carrying a tray of cups of urine?

Or absconding with a bag full of hair?

Or cleaning up a room full of blood? Whilst barefoot, might I add?

Look, I am not interesting in toting around anyone's urine except my own. Dealing with someone else's loose hair? That gets all the NOs I can muster. And whenever I clean up a bloodbath, I wear shoes, thank you very much. But honestly, Vendegast's got me rethinking all of my life choices.

According to Tanner, Vendegast is the housemother and caretaker of the dancers. To an extent, she is, gatherin' up that hair and urine and whatnot. Mostly, though, she's about not letting anyone raise a stink, no matter the circumstances. Whether you're concerned about your performance makeup or you've just endured a terrifying seizure, she gives reassuring touches and uses a gentle tone of voice...but she repeats the same words of "comfort" to everyone that aren't meant to comfort at all. They're meant to hush these girls up and get them to move on.

When words aren't enough to drive her point home, Vendegast immediately turns to manipulative tactics, as when she pouts until Susie gives in. It's basically "This is harmless, won't you do this one little thing for poor little me?"

Vendegast is a master manipulator; they all are at the Akademie, with the dancers and with each other. But what do we expect from them? Sie sind Hexen.

Nowhere is this driven home more than the scene following Olga's destruction. Vendegast and a few others enter the room and gather around the broken dancer. Olga lies on the floor in a shattered heap, conscious but unable to move. In a twisted perversion of her role as "caretaker," Vendegast says:

It's a little late for that, isn't it? That she can be so unfeeling when faced with the ruined body of one of her charges reminds us–Sie sind Hexen. As the others pierce Olga with the hooks, preparing to drag her off into the Mutterhaus for the Hell that awaits her there, Vendegast can barely contain her amusement.

She is evil and I love it! She even casts a quick, jaunty little spell to remind us she is not to be trifled with.

That she often appears so unassuming makes her that much more terrifying. As she did with Susie and the white makeup, Vendegast plays up the "doddering older woman" role. She's a scamp, a troll, a clown...and provides the majority of the limited comic relief in the film. All of her interactions seem to be played with a smirk and a wink–at us, the audience, but also at the characters she's talking to, as if she's daring them to fall for her act and ultimately underestimate her. She's just a daft old woman! What harm could she possibly do?

One of my favorite instances is when she lets the policemen into the building. She plays it so weird, again with a sauciness, so obviously lying about being Madame Blanc, but not caring a whit if she gets caught. She has nothing to fear from these saps.

(Side note: I fucking love how deliberate every line in this film is.)

It's a wonderful performance by Ingrid Caven, often playing feeble and goofy on the surface while somehow revealing the terrifying power within. And those glasses. Do I want to be Vendegast, or do I want to simply worship her? I'm not entirely sure, honestly. But I do know that every "Hang in there, kitty" poster in the world should be taken down and replaced with this:

Covered in blood, escorting a man whose life has just been completely blown up...yes. Everything is pretty.

No comments: