Thursday June 28, 2018
Movie Review: Susu (2018)
The trailer looked good anyway. Maybe that person should’ve edited the film.
It certainly needs editing. Good god. The main problems with “Susu” are editing and pacing. Also the British woman in the wheelchair is obviously a dude in a wig, so that 11th-hour reveal isn’t much of one.
At some point, too, during their things-that-go-bump-in-the-night weekend at a spooky British manor, our protagonists, Qi’an and Aimo (Wu Zitong and Lin Zhu), two Chinese girls living in London, should’ve clung closer to one another; but of course they picked this moment to raise the unsaid things between them. All that baggage. Like how Aimo had less love from her family and fewer career options than Qi’an. Oddly, neither brings up the fact that previously they’d murdered a dude. For some reason, that stays buried. We get that during another 11th-hour reveal.
Yep. That's one long 11th hour.
Qi’an is a Chinese student living and working in London when she gets an offer to translate some texts at a British manor in the countryside. Her roommate, Aimo, supercute, and so big-eyed she could be an anime or Rankin-Bass character (I flashed on Jessica Claus a few times), invites herself along.
The first person they meet? The wheelchair-bound Shirley (Steve Edwin), who has issues beyond being a dude in a wig. Like how does she get around that stair-heavy manor in a wheelchair? No explanation. And what’s up with the gecko? She feeds it, it bites her, she serves it with the evening meal. Everyone’s reaction to that is a kind of muffled embarrassment rather than, you know, “OK, thanks for the gig, I’m outta here.”
The text that needs translating is old footage of Peking Opera star Susu, who lived in the manor decades earlier before taking her own life. We see the suicide in flashback: combing her hair in the vanity mirror, applying lipstick, stringing old filmstrips amid the chandalier and then hanging herself withthe filmstrips. A bit too on-the-nose with the filmstrip, no? One wonders how many directors have thought similarly.
Anyway, we get the usual (if poorly paced) creepy. Strange men keep appearing in windows. The film is often washed out in that ’70s made-for-TV way. Everyone comments on how much Qi’an, who can’t get rid of a neckache, looks like Susu. Is there some metaphysical connection between them? Something supernatural and spooky? Nah. It’s not a ghost story. It’s a people-are-weird story. Shirley, yes, is really a dude, the old husband of Susu. And while he’s got issues—not the cross-dressing; everything else—he’s not the one who keeps murdering women. That’s his son, Benjamin (Frederick Szkoda), who, as a curly headed tot, witnessed Susu’s suicide, and now shows up at odd times, tall and silent and vaguely menacing. To our two leads that means one thing: Which one of us gets him?
A talkative Scottish girl also shows up for a bit, but then she discovers something in Susu’s closet that horrifies her. She takes a photo of it and tries to escape. She nearly does, but at the last minute... You know. Bonk bonk on the head. Qi‘an actually does what no one ever does in a horror movie: She make it out. We see her with her bag at the train station. But then she tries calling Aimo, can’t reach her, so she not only returns to the house (without calling the cops), she accepts Shirley’s invite to go back inside. Of course, there, she’s drugged with tea. By Shirley. For Benjamin? Who knows? Shortly thereafter, Shirley commits suicide, and we learn what hangs in the closet: a dozen or more heads of hair, scalps I guess, of women Benjamin’s killed.
Why? It all goes back to Susu. As that curly headed tot, he liked to watch her comb her hair. He wanted to touch it. But she wouldn’t let him. So when she fell to the ground after trying to kill herself, and croaked out a call for help, he, Damian-like, finished her off. He angrily pulled the filmstrip taut around her neck. Now he could touch it. Now he could touch it all he wanted. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa.
At this point, after Benjamin's comeuppance, you want the movie to end. But it keeps going. Right into the midnight hour.
A year later, we’re told, Qi’an, who survived, is working in a London jewelry store, when, in her apartment, that other 11th hour reveal, the lecherous Londoner Qi’an and Aimo killed, makes a comeback. The heart pills they took from him show up on her dining table. How? She turns, is shocked by a large man there, the screen goes black. Is it the lecher? Is it someone who saw what she did? Who knows? “Written and directed by Sun Yixi.”
There are elements of “Susu” that might've worked. You could do a lot on, for example, the western male fetish for Chinese girls. But this is a student’s effort.