She Will

She Will
She Will
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It may be about a cabin in the woods, but She Will is not your average horror film. The debut feature from artist-turned-filmmaker Charlotte Colbert is a darkly comic – and frequently perplexing – movie that takes a clichéd setting as its starting point and then throws in ideas about female ageing, witchcraft lore and child abuse in service of a #MeToo revenge parable. Presented by giallo legend Dario Argento (the film shares some of the master’s loopiest logic and dream-like visuals), it may be over-busy at times, but it’s thematically dense, beautifully made storytelling that worms its way under your skin.

At its heart, She Will is a twisted character study of former child star turned demanding adult Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige). Sporting the trappings of an ageing diva – all turbans and furs – she travels to a rehab retreat in the Scottish Highlands with compassionate nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt) who feels like a modern presence in a film that defies obvious time-period signifiers. Arriving at their run-down chalet (Veronica drily observes the shack is “scout camp, with a touch of Guantanamo”), they are welcomed into a group of oddballs coralled by mad-haired Tirador (Rupert Everett, having fun with pearl earrings), who leads his charges in yoga and supposedly therapeutic art lessons which involve drawing with charcoal: black carbon invested with the ashes of human remains because the retreat is on the site of centuries-old witch-burnings; narrative that starts to give Veronica newfound strength and anger.

The film goes to some very dark places then shares DNA with other recent flicks (Amulet; Saint Maud); sometimes feels like an exercise if you can spot-the-horror-trope next (telekinesis! levitation!); between bouts of forest-bound malarkey we get Veronica’s backstory of abuse as a young performer at the hands of Malcolm McDowell’s auteur Eric Hathbourne (perhaps the most unlikely name for a vaunted filmmaker ever), sparked by her most famous film being remade with a much younger actor; this strand feels on-the-nose, although much of Colbert’s point-making and ambience is harder to put your finger on – she conjures up creepy, unsettling imagery (malevolent mud!) and stretches of intense mood, amplified by a great Clint Mansell score that leans into horror movie sound design when it needs to be; all anchored by strong performances from the ever-reliable Krige and newcomer Eberhardt who build an affecting sisterhood between their characters as the film progresses. The message here could well be: sometimes all you need to repel centuries-old toxic masculinity is the solidarity of women.

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