Synopsis: An aging actress travels to a remote retreat in Scotland to recuperate from an operation. Once there, she discovers the dark history of the land and, in doing so, unravels her past with vengeful consequences.
Stars: Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Everett, Jonathan Arias, Daniel Lapaine, Olwen Fouéré, Jack Greenlees, Layla Burns
Director: Charlotte Colbert
Running Length: 95 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: Often, the best kind of horror side effect is the cold tingle that slowly creeps up your spine, starting at your lower back and traveling up up up through every vertebra until it reaches the base of your skull. She Will had barely begun, but a shiver went through me, almost as an early reaction to the eerie and elegantly spooky delights director and co-writer Charlotte Colbert would deliver during the next 95 minutes.
Faded actress Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige, Sleepwalkers) is in pain, but her stiff resentment over being so vulnerable prevents her from showing it. Traveling by midnight train to a private wellness retreat in Scotland with her new nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt) to recuperate after undergoing a double mastectomy, she’s haunted by memories of her recent illness. Heart brittle and body broken, Ghent is angry at everything and everybody, especially at the director (Malcolm McDowell, Bombshell) who made her famous as a child and is now trying to do the same for another young, vulnerable girl.
Arriving to find the set-up much different (read: kooky and not so private) than she imagined, Ghent is, however, entranced by the land which is fertilized with the ashes of women burned as witches in the early 1700s. Almost instantly her health starts to improve, right around the same time thick mud oozes from the ground (and out of her), and then…things get stranger. Falling into deep trances instead of sleep, she is seemingly able to harness a new power that allows her the opportunity to reach out past her physical plane into something far more dangerous and deadly.
Colbert and co-writer Kitty Percy offer a script with a #MeToo bent and give it a hell of a supernatural twist, laying it at the altar of Krige, who does phenomenal work. An expressive actress that’s well-respected but has never quite received her full due from the industry, there’s just no describing the contributions Krige makes to the success of this film. Watching the movie for a second time recently after seeing it at Fantastic Fest back in October 2021, I found it even more sinewy and disturbing.
Aside from Krige, the cast is an interesting mix of styles. The put-upon assistant is a well-traveled archetype, yet Eberhardt (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) resists the inclination to play it with much vinegar. Instead, she opts for the caring route, which works to her advantage as the story unfolds. At first, I didn’t even recognize Rupert Everett (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as the loopy leader of Ghent’s frou-frou retreat, but the broad strokes of his artistic hedonist remind of you the variety of genres he’s played with throughout his career. There are also minor but still memorable appearances from Jonathan Aris (Vivarium) as a TV reporter who comes under Ghent’s influence, Daniel Lapaine (Muriel’s Wedding) going saucy as a Ghent devotee that can turn on a dime, and Olwen Fouéré (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) who does more with mere presence than pages of dialogue.
Though it has mystic undertones because of the history of the land Ghent starts to bond with, She Will is not a “witch” movie per se but one dealing with psychic power coming into the hands of those without other recourse. Ghent has stared death down and sees her new gift perhaps as a reward for her strife, and that’s how she finds the will to move on from a haunted past. How she uses that strength is what the movie must contend with and what Ghent herself battles back. Is revenge worth it or is it simply enough to have health restored and move on?
Colbert has a grand feature debut under her belt in an all-together handsomely made production featuring a dynamic sound pulsing underneath (the great Clint Mansell turned in a shivery score of chirping voices). She’s also given Krige a real feather in her already well-adorned hat. It’s a moderately paced film at times but doles out its shivers in the right places, primarily as She Will builds to its eerie finale. With the bold visuals, it would be great to catch this one in theaters, if possible, but keep your eyes out for this wherever it pops up.