Movie: She Will (2021)

I often stumble upon movies through a bizarre series of circumstances.  Often, I find my process is like a river, with one movie leading to another through circuitous routes.

So I ended up seeing 2021’s She Will because I recently saw Alice Krige in 1980’s Ghost Story and realized I haven’t seen her in anything else except Sleepwalkers.  Looking into what else she has appeared in, I was surprised to learn she was in this recent art-house horror movie. Well, horror-ish, as this really is more of a drama with supernatural elements.

This is a film that hews close to the aesthetic expected of such movies in the past decade or so.  I always think of it as the “A24 look”: so dark you sometimes have trouble seeing what’s on the screen, footage of beautiful yet intimidating forests, some upside down shots.  That last trend can die any time it feels like it.

Another trend followed here is a flock of CGI birds flying in formation. Not sure why it seems every other movie requires a scene like this, but it is especially unnecessary when the graphics work isn’t photo-perfect. Still, it fares better than a whirlwind of computer-generated ash towards the end of the movie. That is an effect they shouldn’t have bothered doing.

The plot doesn’t break any new ground, either.  Krige plays a celebrity who appears to have peaked in childhood in a widely-beloved movie.  There appears to be bad blood between Krige and Malcom McDowell, whose character directed the picture she starred in as a child.  Whatever happened weighs heavily on her as she convalesces at a remote cabin in the Scottish highlands, following a double mastectomy.

The horror element creeps in as Krige starts channeling some sort of powers from her surroundings.  The forest has ash-rich soil, supposedly made that from all the witches burned there three centuries prior.

All of this leads me to why it was strange to see this and Ghost Story almost back-to-back.  In addition to the difference in Krige’s age between the two films, there are some other interesting similarities and contrasts.  In the 1980 movie, she was a ghost bent on revenge; this time, she is an avenging witch.  I also could not help but notice how much we see of her mastectomy scars in the 2021 film, while she appeared in the altogether in a few scenes in Ghost Story.  It felt a bit like one movie holds a funhouse mirror up to the other.

Krige turns in a solid performance here.  Especially surprising is how lithe she is, such as a scene where she sleepwalks in a fluid movement like she is levitating sideways.  She has a dancer’s grace that does not betray her years.

Even better is Kota Eberhardt as her nurse.  I found this to be an especially subtle and nuanced performance.  She also is granted one of the few moments of levity, when she investigates suspicious noises while arming herself with a sex toy.

If there was one aspect of the movie that chafed a bit, it is how every man in this is worthless at best and a monster at worst.  Also, the more screentime a male character has, the more despicable they are.  I couldn’t shake the feeling there is an implication all men are scum.  Maybe I’m just afraid to look too closely at myself, for fear of what I may find.  Oh, and then there’s the fact that, yeah, all men are scum.

After all this, it seems strange I still mildly recommend She Will, and yet I do.  I’m not sure I would classify the movie as folk horror, but it pushes some of the same buttons I equate with that genre.  Your mileage will vary depending on how much you enjoy contemporary art-house horror, but genre fans could do worse.

Dir: Charlotte Colbert

Starring Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Malcolm McDowell

Watched on Shout Factory blu-ray