Spoilers want to go play in the mud.
Psychological horror can be a very versatile subgenre. This feature employs imagery both subtle and blatant to try to elicit a certain unsettling state of mind. And yet there’s a certain peaceful draw to let your mind sink in. This does require your participation. I found that to enjoy it I had to be willing to be absorbed and in a calm frame of mind. These requirements might be a steep price, a little too steep without a more juicier payback, but we’ll discuss.
She Will (2021) is directed by Charlotte Colbert who wrote it with Kitty Percy. Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) is an aging actress who is remembered mostly of one of her earlier roles when she was just a child. Recovering after an operation, she goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland along with her personal caretaker Desi (Kota Eberhardt). The location is known for all the women who were burnt as witches centuries before. The local legend is the mud which is said to have healing properties due to be mixed with their ashes. We also cut to Veronica’s old co-star Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell) who is amping the hype over a possible sequel/remake of the original film they both starred on.
The movie’s ambience starts enveloping the audience from the very beginning. I loved the way that Veronica is framed in the train so much I think I wouldn’t mind a film with just that. The palette goes from the warm colors when the characters are inside to the dark blue hues that make you feel the cold outside. The take where Desi observes a flock of birds flying overhead is one of my favorite shots. This strength makes for a visually impacting concept that might easily be taken as style over substance for those waiting for explicit gore.
Instead it would be understandable if you were to think this was a slow burn building to a more meaty payback. That’s where I think some audiences might feel underwhelmed. The film relies on its ambience to set the tone, but it’s not anticipation. To its credit, it keeps it throughout the movie without going for a twist, a reveal or even stopping for some exposition. Just like the background music, it’s an entirely single tone throughout. It can work, but it requires both your participation and your will to immerse in its world. And even then, I’d also say you need to be in the proper mood and state of mind to appreciate it. Don’t expect the movie to shift violently to a gory bloodbath at the end, it doesn’t. If you don’t appreciate the look and feel throughout, this might not be your thing.
Recommended with reservations. I feel like as a psychological feature it works but it rarely conveys any particular thrill. It does require you to dive into its visuals and background music to both appreciate the film from the beginning. Any dialog is mostly incidental and sparse. I personally would add it to a contemplative subcategory of horror where the slow burn is the actual theme rather than a progression. I think it is definitely worth a watch but your mileage might vary not only by your character but by your mood.
That will do for now.