She Will review: An atmospheric feminist horror
Matthew Turner | On 23, Jul 2022
Director: Charlotte Colbert
Cast: Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Everett, Jack Greenlees, John McCrea
A clever blend of folk horror and present-day #MeToo reckoning, She Will marks an impressive feature debut for director Charlotte Colbert. Full of striking visuals, it’s a memorable and haunting experience, despite the odd stumble in an occasionally simplistic script.
Alice Krige plays Veronica Ghent, an ageing movie star who’s best remembered for a role she played as a 13-year-old child in a film called Navajo Frontier, whose controversial director Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell) is not only still celebrated by the press, but also about to embark on a casting search of young girls for a remake. Having recently undergone a painful double mastectomy, Veronica travels to a remote Scottish retreat in the company of her young carer, Desi (Kota Eberhardt).
Upon arrival, Veronica is horrified to discover that the retreat is occupied by self-help group guru Tirador (Rupert Everett), an artist who insists that the peat-heavy local charcoal has rich creative properties, as a result of being the site of several witch-burnings hundreds of years ago. And perhaps there’s something in what he says, because at night the very soil seems to come alive, enveloping Veronica and seemingly fuelling her fantasies of revenge against Hathbourne for a traumatic incident in their past.
The script, co-written with Kitty Percy, does an excellent job of seamlessly blending its two elements together, giving it both an emotional topicality and a powerful sense of pent-up, elemental fury – the land is ready for revenge having soaked up so much injustice and misogyny in its dark past. The script also works in a thematically rich stream that encompasses the fear of ageing and the accompanying loss of looks and health, as well as a jealousy towards the young, although the relationship between Veronica and Desi plays out in a much more interesting way than that suggests.
Colbert’s direction is strongly atmospheric, courtesy of Jaimie Ramsay’s rich cinematography, which indulges in deep blacks and sensuous reds. On top of that, the special effects are impressive, particularly some truly excellent ooze-work that’s creepy and mesmerising at the same time.
Krige is simply terrific as Veronica, her sharply cutting features and haughty demeanour masking her deep-seated pain and vulnerability. Eberhardt is equally good as Desi, who encounters problems of her own at the retreat, while McDowell is perfectly cast – if a little underused – as Hathbourne and Everett provides a useful distraction as the over-the-top artiste.
This is a compelling, superbly acted horror debut that delivers a potent cocktail of weirdness and chills and marks out Colbert as a filmmaking talent to watch. Plus it will make you think twice before stepping into muddy soil in the future.