Mia Goth’s Most Terrifying Roles

Mia Goth is arguably the reigning queen of horror. Though 2022 saw the return of legendary final girls and the rise of a few new scream queens, no one dominated the genre quite like Goth. The London-born actress kicked off the year with a dual role in Ti West’s X and a show-stopping performance in the prequel Pearl as a young woman destined to escape her rural roots.

Goth shows no signs of slowing down as this impressive run continues into 2023 with the highly anticipated Infinity Pool, the latest slice of  mind-bending horror from writer-director Branden Cronenberg. Goth stars in the film as Gabi, a young socialite on a luxurious vacation at an all-inclusive island resort. Seemingly on a whim, she invites fellow travelers James (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) to venture outside the grounds for a day trip that plunges the couple into a living nightmare.

All of this sounds right in Goth’s lane. After all, the young star excels in depicting gleeful madness, and her eclectic filmography is a testament to this talent, rich with female personas who throw caution and morality to the wind. With Infinity Pool, Goth is in a prime position to expand that rogues gallery with yet another scene-stealing turn. In anticipation, let’s revisit the many faces of Goth’s past, those that have charmed us as much as they horrified us, be it victims, villains, or everything in between.

Future Unlimited – “Haunted Love” (2013)

From her first moments on screen, Goth has embodied horror. Her official debut came in the 2013 music video for “Haunted Love”, the eerie single from electro pop duo Future Unlimited. Directed by her then-boyfriend Shia LaBeouf, Goth plays a young wife and mother who takes shocking revenge after suffering years of intimate partner violence. The archetype of a woman driven to violence after extended suffering is one Goth would continue to revisit throughout her career, exploring the convergence of pain and rage with a series of nuanced characters. “Haunted Love” is filled with Goth’s fluid dancing as the remnants of her life collapse around her, a sort of microcosm for the characters she would become known for playing.

P – Nymphomaniac Vol. II (2013)

Goth made her feature film debut, however, in Nymphomaniac Vol. II, the conclusion of a shocking story about a woman undone by her insatiable desire for sex. With a unique power to disturb, writer and director Lars Von Trier infuses a film about sexuality with the horrific consequences of a life dedicated to pleasure at any cost. In the film’s segment, “The Gun”, Goth plays P, a young woman who begins a relationship with the much-older Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a sex addict in need of love and care after years of abusing her body. As an enforcer in Joe’s debt collection agency, P experiments with her capacity for violence when demanding money from male clients. What initially feels like a match made in heaven for the aging Joe becomes a nightmare when P begins an affair with Joe’s former lover. The dissolution of their relationship is both brutal and heartbreaking, showing the terror of trusting another person with your heart and justifying Joe’s desire to divorce her emotions from the sensations of her body.

Milja – The Survivalist (2015)

A small part in Stephen Fingleton’s 2014 short film Magpie turned into a starring role in his feature-length expansion The Survivalist. The film follows a solitary man who’s established an isolated farm in a post-apocalyptic hellscape where food is scarce and survival depends on extreme conservation of resources. Goth plays Milja, a young woman wandering the countryside with her mother Kathryn (Olwen Fouéré). Hoping to buy a night of safety, Kathryn offers her daughter as a sexual companion to the Survivalist (Martin McCann) in exchange for food and shelter. In a world rapidly emptying of people, Milja finds that her most valuable asset is her sexuality and she must essentially sell her own body to assure its survival. Conflicting loyalty to both her mother and her new lover are further complicated when she becomes pregnant and must plan for an uncertain future in a world where every mouthful counts. Goth is both victim and villain in this film that explores womanhood in a ruined world and asks us how much of ourselves we would be willing to give up in order to survive.

Meg Weathers – Everest (2015)

In the 2015 action blockbuster Everest, Goth plays Meg, the teenage daughter of Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) a wealthy thrill-seeker paying for a guided excursion to the summit of the world’s tallest mountain. When a devastating storm leaves the climbing team stranded in Everest’s legendary Death Zone, Meg must wait by the phone with her terrified family to hear if her father will ever descend from the mountain. Though her role is small, Meg and her mother Peach (Robin Wright) demonstrate the terror of loving a daredevil. While Beck goes out into the world, risking his life for the thrill of accomplishment, his family is thrust into an indefinite hell wondering if each trip will be the one that finally claims his life.

Hannah – A Cure for Wellness (2016)

Goth stepped into the world of mainstream horror with a supporting role in Gore Verbinski’s highly anticipated A Cure for Wellness. This medical horror film follows a young executive named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) sent to retrieve his boss from a mysterious spa in the Swiss Alps. When a car crash forces him to seek treatment at the facility, Lockhart meets Hannah, a fellow patient whose sinister family may have a connection with the hospital’s tragic past. The film failed to reach audiences with many critics bemoaning its exorbitant run time and lack of substance. However, A Cure for Wellness is gorgeous with meticulous and horrifying imagery filling every scene. Goth plays an entrancing damsel in distress and her intoxicating blend of childlike innocence and wicked intent is heavily featured in the film’s visual marketing. A Cure for Wellness is now mostly remembered for its haunting images of a young Goth placidly submerged in a pool of blue-green liquid or emerging from an old-fashioned bathtub filled with sinister eels. Despite its initial failings, Goth’s recent success will likely lead to the film’s reexamination as a visual gem and an oddity in the horror genre.

Jane – Marrowbone (2017)

Goth followed this performance as another daughter in distress in Marrowbone, the devastating horror film from Sergio G. Sánchez. The child of a notorious serial killer, Jane flees with her mother Rose (Nicola Harrison) and three brothers to her matrilineal estate in rural Maine. Struggling to stay together after Rose’s death, the Marrowbone siblings find themselves haunted by a sinister presence in the isolated home. Oldest child Jack (George MacKay) tries his best to leave their father’s sins behind, but a horrifying secret lurking in the attic may signal the end of the new life he’s trying to create for his family. The more we learn about the truth hiding within the Marrowbone house, the more we fear for the family’s ability to hold itself together. Jane and her brothers cover mirrors in an attempt to shield themselves from painful memories, but Sánchez’s heartbreaking film shows that you can only run from your past for so long. Eventually, the truth comes out regardless of the consequences.

Sara – Suspiria (2018)

Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria was one of the most anticipated films of 2018. Though divisive among fans of the 1977 classic, Guadagnino’s muted and moody film is an inversion of Dario Argento’s bright and bombastic story about a coven of witches hiding within a renowned ballet academy. Goth co-stars as Sara, a dancer who takes new student Susie (Dakota Johnson) under her wing while searching for missing dancer Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz). The challenging role required Goth to complete extensive ballet training and rehearsal in order to blend in with the professional dancers who fill out the rest of the cinematic company. Though she is spared her original counterpart’s ghastly razor wire death, Goth’s Sara experiences a horrifying demise in the updated version as well. While searching the bowels of the massive academy, her leg is broken by the sinister building, shards of the bone poking through her shin. Intent on completing their ritual performance, the company’s matrons entrance Sara and force her to continue dancing. She is then held in a state of rotting zombification in preparation to become a human sacrifice in the coven’s elaborate spell.

Boyse – High Life (2018)

Goth would go on to portray another gruesome death later that year. In Claire Denis’ visceral sci-fi horror film, High Life, Goth plays a convicted criminal named Boyse, part of a manned space voyage designed to extract energy from a black hole. Sensual and stunning, High Life examines the humanity we lose when we cease to be bound by collective morality. While onboard, Boyse is attacked and experimented on by her fellow crew members and unwillingly becomes pregnant through artificial insemination. Though she suffers at the hands of the other passengers, Boyse is hardly an innocent victim. Boyse murders the ship’s pilot and replaces her on a mission around the black hole, a choice for which she pays a steep price.

As her shuttle approaches the point of no return, Boyse suffers death by spaghettification, the real scientific results of a human body entering a black hole. Due to overwhelming gravitational force, Boyse’s body is pulled apart, split into an increasing number of segments until it would theoretically resemble a string of spaghetti. Though not particularly graphic, Boyse’s death is perhaps more upsetting due to its subtlety. Entering the field, she quietly moans as her face begins to bleed. After a soft squelching noise, Boyse’s space suit is filled with blood, leaving no trace of the woman we saw seconds before. Denis consulted black hole expert Aurélien Barrau to ensure accuracy in depicting this physical terror, an appalling preview of the destruction our bodies would face should we ever encounter a black hole.

Marsha – Mayday (2021)

In 2021, Goth embraced a more empowering role in the feminist utopian film Mayday. Marsha is a hesitant bride who reclaims her autonomy on a mysterious island in which women are winning a continuous battle against an army of toxic men. The genre-bending story, written and directed by Karen Cinorre, is a unique thought experiment and an examination of what feminism actually means. As the leader of female resistance fighters, Marsha encourages newcomer Ana (Grace Van Patten) to embrace her bloodlust and fight back against men who believe they’re entitled to abuse her. When Ana hesitates to actually harm the male soldiers, she questions Marsha’s methods of leadership and accuses her of being a monster. Finding catharsis in violence, Marsha insists that being a hero and a psychopath are often the same thing, sparking a moving examination of a matriarchal power. In Mayday, Goth embodies a complicated feminist idea and asks us if it’s really possible to overcome an oppressive system without getting your hands dirty.

Pearl – X (2022) and Pearl (2022)

Despite this accomplished resume, Goth’s biggest year was yet to come. The talented actress made waves in the horror community in Ti West’s gritty slasher, X. An homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the film follows a group of filmmakers on their way to a rural farm where they plan to shoot an artful adult film. In an impressive dual role, Goth stars as Maxine, a young performer intent on making a name for herself in the world of porn and escaping the repression of her ultra religious past. Goth also plays the elderly Pearl who secretly watches the performers and longs for the days when she possessed the same youth and beauty. Jealousy overcomes her and she sets out on a mission to destroy anyone who reminds her of the body she used to have. X is a harrowing exploration of the horrors of aging and the ways our relationship with our own body changes as the years go by.

Pearl trailer

After receiving widespread praise for these oppositional performances, Goth set the horror world on fire with Pearl, a prequel that seeks to explain the elderly killer’s bloodlust. Goth plays a young Pearl, stuck on her parent’s farm while her husband is stationed overseas fighting in the first World War. With the Spanish Flu raging, Pearl becomes increasingly isolated and obligated to care for her ailing father while trying to please her strict mother. When an opportunity for a grander life arrives, Pearl goes to horrific lengths in pursuit of the exciting life she desires. A perfect companion piece to the original X, Pearl is a hellish version of The Wizard of Oz and a fabulous showcase for its leading lady’s talents. Goth has been praised for her fearless performance including a nearly eight minute monologue at the climax of the film and a lingering smile that grows ever more painful as the credits roll.

In just 10 years, Mia Goth has cornered the market on sympathetic villains who effortlessly ride the line between psychosis and suffering. This trend will continue in Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool with the psychopathic Gabi, a deranged beauty who hides a passion for destruction under a posh exterior. Goth has described her newest project as “a wild, wild film” and given her experience in similar roles, she is likely on the verge of debuting a new intoxicating villain. Catch it this Friday, January 27th, exclusively in theaters via Neon. Get tickets now.

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