CAST: Alice Krige, Malcolm McDowell, John McCrea, Rupert Everett, Amy Manson, Jonathan Aris, Daniel Lapaine, Kota Eberhardt, Olwen Fouéré, Kenneth Collard, Apple Yang, Catriona McNicoll, Fiz Marcus, Stephen Kyem
RUNNING TIME: 95 mins
BASICALLY…: An aging actress (Krige) heads to a mysterious retreat where she develops an unexpected power…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Despite the strong feminist themes at play in director Charlotte Colbert’s feature debut She Will, the first name to appear in the film is that of a man: Dario Argento, to be exact, with the legendary Italian giallo filmmaker lending his name recognition (and an executive producer credit) to a film that is clearly inspired by his otherworldly style, from gorgeously colourful imagery, to weird plotting where little makes sense but you’re having a good enough time to really care about that.
Colbert’s film is no mere homage to the legendary director, though, for it also offers a dark, twisted, and surprisingly funny take on the post-#MeToo reckoning of women against their former, and current, male abusers, told from a unique perspective that honestly shouldn’t be so unique by this point.
That perspective is of Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige), a middle-aged actress whose biggest role was as a child performer in a film directed by acclaimed filmmaker Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell), who is now on the hunt for another young actress to fill her role in a sequel. Veronica, meanwhile, has just undergone a double mastectomy and is heading up to a remote retreat in Scotland to recover, accompanied by her long-suffering assistant Desi (Kota Eberhardt). Upon arriving, Veronica is dismayed to find the place inhabited by a group of eccentrics led by pretentious artist Tirador (Rupert Everett), but her worries fade away when she learns of the area’s dark history – it was the site where, a few centuries prior, women were tortured and burned alive for practising witchcraft – and begins developing some interesting new powers from the soil, which is said to be infused with the powers of said women.
Like a lot of Argento’s movies, Colbert’s She Will doesn’t require much thinking on the audience’s part. That isn’t to say that the film thinks so little of its viewers, because it doesn’t, but it operates on a certain kind of logic that is best experienced as exactly that: an experience. Colbert takes after the Italian horror maestro by spending little time trying to explain the mechanics of the supernatural goings-on, because she is a smart enough filmmaker to realise that sometimes the creepiest things are the stuff that is barely explained, and are best left to just be witnessed without sparing much thought as to how it’s all supposed to work. While at times the script (co-written by Colbert and Kitty Percy) could perhaps do with a bit more explanation to provide context for some of the truly bizarre visuals, it still works well enough as a sensory experience where, once again, you’re not required to think too hard about what you’re seeing, hearing (courtesy of an immersive aural score by Clint Mansell) or feeling, and can just sit there and absorb this strange tale at face value.
It’s an impressive calling card for Colbert, who here proves that she knows how to create an effective atmosphere that is drenched in gorgeously grim night-time cinematography, and abstract visuals that get borderline psychedelic in parts. She balances tone fairly well too, since there are moments that feel like they’re straight out of a Monty Python sketch (basically, any scene with Rupert Everett’s foppish artist) and yet still it still feels like you’re watching the same film within the same genre. Holding it together is Alice Krige’s quietly commanding lead performance, wherein the actress makes others half her age jealous of the physical and emotional commitment she pours into this emotionally complex character, haunted by a truly dark past that speaks volumes about the mistreatment of younger actors in the film industry. The catharsis she represents to any woman who’s suffered at the hands of powerful men (represented here by Malcolm McDowell, who is basically playing Roman Polanski) should provide some easy satisfaction, as does another instance where an attempted rape is interrupted by a pool of thick, liquid mud – and it says a lot about the visual beauty of this film when a bonkers description like that can be both taken somewhat seriously and look gorgeous while doing it.
It’ll probably split audiences (but then again, what horror movie doesn’t?), but She Will offers a bit more than just the standard scares and unsettling imagery. By taking after the work of a horror icon, to a point where his name is one of the first things you see during the opening credits, Charlotte Colbert announces herself not just as a potential inheritor of Dario Argento’s signature stylings, but as one with a knack for her own brand of timely real-world horror where women with double mastectomies can truly be a force to be reckoned with.
SO, TO SUM UP…
She Will is a strong calling card for debut feature filmmaker Charlotte Colbert, who takes after the stylings of Dario Argento for a sensory experience that doesn’t require much thought, and still works due to its timely themes and the magnetic lead turn of Alice Krige.