Careful, spoilers ahead!
With an expressive face and a unique gift to portray decisiveness disguised as naiveté, actress Mia Goth is a horror icon in the making.
From Marrowbone and A Cure for Wellness to Suspiria and Pearl, Goth’s ability to play a horror leading lady is nearly unparalleled. Her work is raw and honest, vulnerable yet intense, alluring yet somewhat discomforting. Goth is the embodiment of the modern horror icon, and she knows it:
Set in the 1970s, X (released in March 2022) follows a group of free-spirited young adults who rent a cabin on a farm to shoot a porn film. Of course, certain hurdles remain. Hurdles in the form of a the puritanical elderly couple who own the acreage. As you might have guessed, chaos ensues.
Mia Goth plays Maxine, a young actress with hopes of becoming the next big star. But in addition she also plays Pearl, the elderly woman who seeks violent revenge on the filmmakers. She flips between an effortlessly beautiful, sexually liberated character to a prosthetics-donning older woman who feels she’s losing her femininity. And (in short) portrays villain and (supposedly) victim. What makes it all the more remarkable is how Goth disguises herself under all the makeup.
First-time viewers might rightfully wonder just who the hell is this actress. Goth disrupts her own mobility, for a slow, almost off-balance movement as Pearl. The true success is Goth’s ability to create a sympathetic monster by using the vulnerable, charismatic traits she’s displayed in Wellness and Suspiria. Pearl wishes to have the youth and sexual liberation Maxine and the other adult film actors enjoy. She’s a unique slasher villain, nowhere near as strong as Jason, Michael and Freddy. But maybe even more dangerous for the young film crew.
Playing Maxine, Goth has an air of confidence and a sprinkle of narcissism. She dreams of being a star. It might be this inflated ego that saves her in the end. Because of her beauty, it catches Pearl’s eye.
In “Pearl” (2022), the titular character may not get her wish to be a star, but Mia Goth sure does. The whole movie is a showcase of what Goth can do. For this prequel, she adds layers to the monster first seen in X. From the beginning, Pearl is the predator. Having already played the older version in X, Goth continues to show her versatility as a horror icon, delivering another compelling and engaging performance with even more bite.
So, despite the fact that Goth is portraying prey and predator, what else distinguishes their work from conventional slasher films?
Mia Goth puts a turn on the classic “final girl trope”. The final girl is the sole survivor of the slasher’s rampage. A mass of characters are introduced, typically with one or two identifiable traits each, then they begin being picked off one by one. As originally identified, the final girl is typically kind to the point of naivety, strictly sober despite her friends’ indulgences, and completely chaste. Her supposed moral superiority marks her out as “better” than the other victims.
The audience is meant to see her survival as good and right since she didn’t do any drugs or have any sex. For her good behavior, she’s typically rewarded with prolonged survival and a confrontation with the killer of the piece. This confrontation almost always goes in her favor. She may defeat the killer, or barely escape with her life, or survive long enough to be rescued. The so-called “Scream Queen” used to be the damsel in distress in the early days of horror before turning into a cautionary tale as the genre evolved. The ’70s and ’80s saw her become the ultimate paragon of virtue at the height of the slasher frenzy, eventually transforming into something different, a trope constantly defying expectations.
The slasher genre historically punishes women for being sexually liberated, while sparing those who are most innocent. But in X, hedonistic Maxine is far from a “perfect” victim, and yet, she is the only person in her group to survive. With MaXXXine, which is reportedly set after X, viewers will get to see Maxine’s quest to become a star.
Today, directors, writers, and actresses alike are beginning to find new sides to the scream queen label, refusing to limit or box it. The scream queen has more bite than ever before and isn’t afraid of baring her teeth. Accompanied by fellow actresses like Anya Taylor-Joy, Samara Weaving, Jenna Ortega, Naomi Watts, and the Farmiga sisters, Goth is spearheading the revolution of the scream queen, proving there’s more to her than looks.
In short: Mia Goth is killing it.