Seattle International Film Festival Review: SUSU (2017)

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Sometimes I truly love going into a film knowing nothing about it. It's fun, mysterious, and you have absolutely no idea what to expect. It's a different experience from all the mainstream films that are hyped up and you already know a good chunk about the characters and can even guess what may happen. 

I recently had this experience after watching the horror drama SUSU. The unnerving story was written and directed by Yiki Sun, and stars Zitong Wu, Zhu Lin, Frederick Szkoda, and Steve Edwin. It tells the story about two Chinese girls who take a film transcription job at a beautiful heritage countryside mansion. In doing so, they discover the incredibly twisted truth about the family secrets and the iconic star who died there, Susu. Will they escape before it's too late?

Over the weekend, I watched the highly anticipated film of the year, Hereditary, which was rather brilliant in it's insane family dynamic, unsettling atmosphere, and heart wrenching performances. Much of this can be said about SUSU as well; different storylines, but similar impact. 

From the moment Qi'an (Wu) and Aimo (Lin) arrived at the mansion, you could feel the dread lingering; death was watching. I would have never stepped foot in the door. It only gets more bizarre as you meet the lady of the house, Shirley (Edwin), who is clearly a cross-dresser of sort, but you have no clue why and everyone seems to ignore the fact. With each character they introduce, the weirder the family dynamic becomes and your left wondering what the secrets are that are hidden inside these walls. 

As I mentioned previously, the atmosphere is very unsettling from beginning to end; however, it's the little moments throughout SUSU that make it stand out. The body gestures, the shifting of the eyes which shows discomfort, and an overall focus on detail that really creates something eerily special. There are much bigger dramatic scenes that stick in my mind as well, especially towards the end, but it's the little moments that carried the story along beautifully. 

All of the performances were executed well and played an important part in the story; however, Zhu Lin and Steve Edwin's characters stood out the most. Lin's character grows throughout the story as well as her performance. She puts herself in a frightening situation and fights tooth and nail to pull herself out of it. Meanwhile, Steve Edwin's character/s was the most interesting and dynamic. You could tell he was layered with pain, mental illness, and guilt. His eyes were cold even when smiling. He made every scene uncomfortable. 

If you love films about creepy houses with bizarre and unsettling family dynamics that are layered with mystery and uncertainty, watch SUSU. Actually, why not make it a double feature treat? Watch Hereditary and then follow it with SUSU, or vice versa. I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Tori Danielle 

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