Wednesday, July 13, 2022

She Will: A New Witch Film Executive-Produced by Dario Argento

Recovering actress Veronica Ghent just wants to be alone, like Garbo. Instead, she has to talk to fellow guests at her secluded retreat about local witch lore, as if she were part of the cast of Lux Æterna, or even one of Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” films. (The latter would be aptly fitting, since the Italian auteur is on-board as an executive producer.) There is definitely something about place and its sinister history that exerts power over the present in Charlotte Colbert’s feature directorial debut, She Will, which opens Friday in New York.

The frosty Ghent will be a difficult assignment for her nurse, Desi Hatoum, but viewers will soon understand why she is so bitter. Having just endured a double mastectomy, the former sex symbol learned her former director-lover, Eric Hathbourne is making a sequel to their greatest hit, without her. His career seems to be cruising along just fine, even though it is an open secret he had an inappropriate relationship with the underaged Ghent back then.

She wants to block out all news of Hathbourne and the rural artists’ retreat is just the place to do it. It was built on the outskirts of a forest where women were burned during the Scottish witch-hunting era. Of course, it also happens to be smack dab in the middle of a cellular dead zone. Not surprisingly, Ghent can’t stand the artsy types, but she is strangely “receptive” to the environment.

She Will
is a dynamite debut that is not well-served buy reductive labels like “#metoo horror,” or whatever. It is enormously stylish and heavily atmospheric, but also ambiguous with respects to its supernatural goings-on, in the right kind of way. As Ghent, Alice Krige truly becomes a grand dame of horror, in the tradition of Joan Bennett in Dark Shadows and the original Suspiria or Tilda Swinton in the remake. She is regal and also quite something to deal with.

Likewise, Malcolm McDowell is perfectly cast as the sleazy Hathbourne, who might just be the thesp’s least caricatured role in years. Kota Eberhardt also anchors the film quite effectively as the sympathetic and grounded Hatoum. She and Krige are terrific playing off each other as they develop their characters’ rocky relationship.

Colbert’s approach is delightfully sly and it pays off impressively. Cinematographer Jamie Ramsey nicely evokes a retro Euro-horror look, while the art and design team creates a creepily textured setting in and around the Scottish manor house-retreat. Highly recommended,
She Will opens this Friday (7/15) in New York, at the IFC Center.