Without a doubt, Suzanne Voss is one of the sweetest people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing in my time in this business – but if you’ve only seen this movie’s Suzanne, you’ll have to take my word for it.
In Dementia: Part II, Suzanne slips into the shoes (or, in this case, nightgown) of Suzanne Goldblum, an elderly widow who suffers from the titular condition. Left in solitude and grief after the passing of her late husband Harold, Suzanne is a shell of the person she once was – and when struggling parolee Wendell (Matt Mercer, who also co-wrote and directed the film with Mike Testin) arrives to assist her with home repairs, things get truly weird.
It’s a truly superb performance which takes Wendell and the audience on an unpredictable, hilarious and frequently disturbing ride through Suzanne Goldblum’s transformation from sweet to confused to homicidal and everything in between.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Suzanne Voss about her experiences throughout the break-neck, five-week production of Dementia: Part II, how she approached such a multi-faceted and challenging character and more.
Suzanne: It was great fun to do. I think we all had a good time. You know, we had a very short amount of time to do it. It was script-to-screen in thirty days – that’s what it was. We got the script the night before, and it took four days to shoot with a day of pickups. It went really well.
I met Graham (Skipper) for the first time there, I met Najarra (Townsend) for the first time there. I’d worked with Matt (Mercer) and Mike (Testin) before, and it was this crazy little fun project that we were going to do together. It was quite a surprise when it took on its own life after Cinepocalypse. I’m happy that it did, but I was just surprised.
When the film festival circuit was over, I thought “okay, that was a nice ride”, and that was it. And lo and behold, here we come again. So I’m just happy. I love this little film, and I’m happy that people will get a chance to see it and hopefully laugh, groan and just have a good time with it.
You can tell how much fun was being had while shooting, and so much of that energy is in your performance. How exactly was the role of Suzanne pitched to you? It seemed like it would have been a pretty demanding role, switching so abruptly between different states.
Suzanne: Matt called me up a couple of weeks before we were going to shoot. He said, “Mike and I are working on this crazy project. We have to write a feature film, and if we all do it together, there’s a slot for it at Cinepocalypse. Would you like to be a part of it?”. That was it, because the script hadn’t been written at that point. I think they had a few ideas, but none that they related to me.
So the first time I met Suzanne Goldblum was the night before the first day of shooting. I had a chance to read through the script, kind of scan it, and it was like, “okay, I have to be on set at what time tomorrow?” and pack my bag and be ready.
Sounds like it was really by the seat of your pants.
Suzanne: That’s exactly what I was going to say.
It’s impressive that it all managed to come together after all, and that’s a testament to everybody involved. Graham was saying that there wasn’t really much of an opportunity for multiple takes or anything like that.
Suzanne: Right. I was at least aware of it a couple of weeks ahead. As I understand it, Graham got a call the day before and they said “can you help us out?”. He said, “sure, when do you want me?”, thinking it was down the road a bit. They said tomorrow, so he came in and did an amazing job. He was slimy and mean and he just nailed it.
You’re really the heart and soul of this movie, because there’s so much going on with the character of Suzanne between her physicality and the way she carries herself, as well as the disturbed state of mind with sweetness underneath. It must have been quite a challenge to encapsulate all these different people in a single character.
Suzanne: As we went along, I approached the work as this is a real person. She wasn’t just a horror trope, she’s lonely. She’s a widow and wants company desperately. I think with the years of living by herself, she falls back to her memories a lot, and with the young man in the house it starts reminding her of the days when she and Harold were young. She’s trying to recreate that with Wendell.
I was able to tap into the parts of me that sometimes get lonely, that would like to be in a relationship, that enjoy dancing, that would like to be the seductress and someone who’s also very logical and someone who is so angry. I was able to tap into all of that stuff. I didn’t have time to overthink it, because we didn’t have time to overthink anything.
As you said earlier, even though the film was shot several years ago, it’s really got a life of itself now that it’s had a few little tweaks and is going to be released to a wider audience. It’s pretty cool that something which was more of an experiment is going out into the wild like this.
Suzanne: It’s surprising to me that it did, you know, but I’m happy. I’m really happy, because I want people to enjoy this. I want people to laugh and to love her and to hate and be afraid of her. I want them to enjoy the whole film and to laugh at the situation that Wendell gets put in by this nutty little woman. But I want people to enjoy it. There are people who aren’t going to like it, and that’s fine too. But for our fans? Come on, baby!
Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting will release the midnight horror film DEMENTIA PART II in theaters on May 21, 2021, and on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on June 1, 2021.