Pin It
1. AN35_COV4_Collier_Schorr_13

Chloë Grace Moretz on Foundational Folklore and Positive Ritualisation

The horror fan-girl waxes lyrical on her the political power of her favourite movie genre

A quick glance through Chloë Grace Moretz’s prolific CV reveals three things.

One: at just 21 years old and with getting on for 50 roles under her belt, she’s already an acting veteran.

Two: she didn’t waste any time shaking the American-sweetheart label. Cue a potty-mouthed assassin in Kick-Ass, a Russian hooker with popstar dreams and a nasty shiner in The Equalizer and, in this year’s Sundance hit The Miseducation of Cameron Post, a lesbian teen undergoing coversion therapy. She’s recently completed The Widow, starring the Gallic goddess of turmoil, Isabelle Huppert: “It’s about a girl who loses her mother and she befriends this widow... things get pretty heavy and dark.”

And lastly: her resumé also reveals Moretz is a horror geek. Following her breakthrough in 2005’s The Amityville Horror, there was the supernatural shocker The Eye, the coming-of-age vampire tale Let Me In, Tim Burton’s camp comedy Dark Shadows, and in 2013, she even took on telekinetic prom queen Carrie. (She is also voicing Wednesday in a new animated version of The Addams Family.) But all her fangirl prayers were answered when Luca Guadagnino came calling with the part of Patricia in Suspiria.

It’s a small but pivotal role: Patricia’s crazed rantings in the opening sequence underpin the next 150 shredding minutes of terror; her disappearance from the Helena Markos dance academy fuels the entire mystery. For Moretz, the opportunity also marked a personal turning point. “This movie came off the back of a break I took from the industry to reconfigure my career and work out who I was,” she explains down the line from Provincetown, Massachusetts. “Suspiria and my character, Patricia, are definitely the areas I want to move into – a more adult version of me. Suspiria is right on point with where I’m headed.”

“I first saw Dario Argento’s original Suspiria years ago, when I was 15 or 16. My brother Colin is a real horror fan and he showed it to me. But I hadn’t watched it since then so it was fun to revisit while I was prepping for Luca’s version. I scare pretty easily but I love horror movies, love being scared – it's a rush. Even so, it was kind of creepy on set.

“We were filming in this strange, dilapidated hotel at the top of a mountain in Varese, Italy, and the energy up there was really strange. We were all kind of losing our minds. We all felt totally crazy, so did Luca. The hair on your arm would stand up as soon as you entered the hotel; our heads were fuzzy all day. Luca didn’t create this atmosphere, it was something else. None of us can really describe it. And I don’t know if it had to do with the fact that, because it was unused, the hotel had all these hundreds of antennas strapped to the top of it – there was so much electricity being pumped through this building that it messed with us. Weird stuff was happening – people were getting hurt, getting sick, breaking bones... It was cool. It really fed into the scary atmosphere of the film.

“I’m actually co-directing a short horror film in a few months with my other brother Trevor. I’ve always wanted my directorial debut to be a horror but doing Suspiria definitely inspired me to move forward with it and start lining things up. I also think today, in the zeitgeist, there is a real need for good horror movies like A Quiet Place, Hereditary and now Suspiria. There is a place and time right now where people want horror. It offers an escape, yes, but look at Get Out, that movie had a whole political movement behind it – it said something and made a historic shift in the industry.

Suspiria is political, that’s for sure. Luca is making a statement. It can be enjoyed simply as a genre film, but there is so much more to it than that. The way that witches have been persecuted throughout history and the way that feminine wiles are portrayed as an evil thing – women putting men ‘under a spell’ – it was always a way to undermine women, something that we still see today. It makes the film feel very real. It’s definitely not all death, blood and gore. There are brutal, shocking scenes, for sure – it wouldn’t be an adequate reimagining of Argento’s wild original if there weren’t – but this version is about eternal motherhood. It’s about a connection to the world, a larger power. It’s a story about finding yourself and figuring out what your ultimate sense of being is. It’s about passion and femininity. The emotionality will really surprise people.

“Along with horror, I love folklore. In lore you can find alternative ideas about society, and that’s what lore has been used for throughout history. You know, why do you fear the woods? From reading folklore. That’s where we get half of our references from as a modern society. Horror is the same idea, just in motion-picture form. What’s interesting about Suspiria is that the story is something you might have seen before – it’s about a coven of witches; we’ve seen lots of movies about that – but the execution of that idea is like nothing you’ve ever seen. The femininity that is used to express the witches’ rituals is so, so different and intoxicating. The dancing in Suspiria is very primal.

“I look at it like the Chinese practice of qigong, which promotes the idea of being able to holistically charge your energies and replenish yourself through movement. Tai chi is another idea of conjuring with physical and meditative movement. It’s like in that documentary about the Osho cult, Wild Wild Country, they use physical expression – screaming and jumping – to conjure up this energy. And that idea is pulled through a lot of religions and spiritual practices, especially in the occult and witchcraft.

“My brother Colin is a practising wizard who does white magic. That’s positive magic that doesn’t use dark sources, it comes from light sources. It’s fun to chat with him and learn about that. Sometimes he’ll make up spells for me. I think if you put your mind to anything, you can make it a reality, I really do. If you believe in it, and that’s what you’re putting out, then the spell will work for you. Modern witchcraft is really individualised magic.

“I believe in the unknown, in the power of manifestation and doing ritualistic spells to do positive things. I think it can also work negatively, but I use it in a positive way. I believe you can manifest the things you want to receive in your life, whether positive or negative. People who harbour negativity will be sicker, unhappy and have more hardship come into their life, whereas if you manifest positivity, good things happen. I believe you can manifest your own destiny.”

Hair: James Pecis at Bryant Artists using Oribe. Make-up: Susie Sobol at Julian Watson Agency. Set design: Colin Donahue at Owl and the Elephant. Manicure: Marisa Carmichael at Lowe & Co using NCLA. Digital tech: Max Tiggas at Industrial Color. First photographic assistant: Pj Spaniol. Photographic assistants: Max Dworkin and Grayson Vaughan. Styling assistants: Molly Shillingford and Max Pugh. Hair assistant: Kelly Peach. Make-up assistant: Tomoko Miyamoto. Set-design assistant: Julien Borno. Producer: Wes Olson at Connect The Dots. Production co-ordinator: Jane Oh at Connect The Dots. Production assistants: Nikki Patrlja and Jeremy Sinclair. Retouching: Two Three Two.

This story originally featured in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of AnOther Magazine which is be on sale internationally now.