In Cinemas

She Will review – feminist folk horror digs up the traumas of the past

Alice Krige gives a committed performance as an ageing film star bent on revenge in Charlotte Colbert's atmospheric thriller

There's a lot to like about this atmospheric folk horror centered on an ageing actress whose trip to the remote Scottish Highlands takes an unexpected turn into vengeance, though She Will's tendency to repeat itself deprives it of some of its initial power. Alice Krige, made to look older beyond her years, plays Veronica Ghent, a snobbish movie star whose best days are behind her, and who has come for some well-needed rest at a fancy woodland resort following a double mastectomy with only doting assistant Desi (Kota Eberhardt) for company.

Things take a turn when Veronica's attempts at solace are disturbed by the presence of a pretentious artist (or cult leader?) played by Rupert Everett, who has taken up residence with an adoring posse of wide-eyed followers in tow. Soon Veronica is being subjected to a succession of nightmarish visions, the most vivid of which – showing numerous pagan-y women being burned and buried alive – appears to be depicting real events from the past.

Veronica, we quickly learn, is herself a survivor of abuse, specifically at the hands of a lauded film director named Eric Hathbourne who's on the verge of being knighted for his services, played with just the right amount of charisma and arrogance by Malcolm McDowell. The two worked together when Veronica was just thirteen-years-old on classic Navajo Frontier. With a sequel in the works, and Hathbourne back in the public eye, Veronica finds herself caught in an anxious spiral.

But she's not alone in her grief. Now able to channel the dark energy of her fallen sisters from the soil beneath her feet, Veronica discovers she has the ability to manipulate time and space, pushing the film into the realms of #MeToo revenge thriller as it probes (though not entirely satisfyingly) the ways in which women are treated within a toxic industry, but also by society at large as they age. It results in a good number of inspired, montage-heavy sequences, aided by considered, crisp cinematography and an otherworldly score by the great Clint Mansell, even if by the hour-mark we start to feel like we're going in circles.

Director Charlotte Colbert, making her feature debut, was clearly inspired by the reality-shifting works of Italian horror legend Dario Argento – to prove it he's even credited here as a producer. For every idea that feels fresh and new, there's another with the air of something we've seen deployed countless times before (comparisons to recently lauded horror film Saint Maud seem particularly apt). Yet the film holds together thanks to Krige's committed turn and the inventive production design, even if it can't quite bring itself to draw a proper line between everything it wants to say.

She Will is released in UK cinemas on 22 July.

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