Horror’s greatest sources of terror and pain are frequently not the shape of a masked killer in a doorway. It lies in the trauma of abuse, those festering wounds with thick scabs that the slightest touch can puncture. It rises from the anguish of containing your words and your entire being into a conformist space at the expense of your own healing and happiness. But what happens if you are able to release those conventions and go to a place of catharsis and sweet vengeance? That is what IFC Midnight’s She Will, written and directed by Charlotte Colbert, explores in its narrative.
We’ve seen this similar lens of moving away from society, rejecting its status quos, and embracing true self with shows like Yellowjackets. However, while its protagonists are teenage girls and their situation is primarily accidental, She Will takes a different approach. Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) is an older woman whose movie star days are waning. She came to rise in the 1970s through her role in a seminal film at the age of 13.
We initially see Veronica through her nurse Desi’s (Kota Eberhardt) eyes. She’s stoic, callous, and a rather entitled former Hollywood princess with blank eyes and a clenched jawline. (Their interactions take on another layer considering Krige is white while Eberhardt is a Black woman.) But, the film peels back Veronica’s layers to reveal her truth. She’s grappling with being thrust into public conversation as the remake of her film Navajo Frontier dominates the news. This coincides with her losing what she perceives as the last strands of her womanhood—a double mastectomy—along with her youthful looks that once brought ample praise.
More importantly, the resurgence of attention unearths a core wound of sexual abuse. The film’s famed director surrounds her through tabloids and TV screens. Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell) is catalyst for much of her pent up pain. And she’s not sure how to heal that aspect of herself. That is, until she traverses with Desi to a remote Scottish retreat. The location is teeming with folklore of witches burning, their remains creating rich soil and charcoal. Veronica begins to connect with those images, trailing outside with her feet in the forest’s greenery. She gains a supernatural strength from them and begins to break free from several weights.
The weight of losing symbols of beauty (at least, the way our society defines it). The sadness and unsettling feelings keeping her up at night. Her physical pain and scars from surgery lessen. And, the need to keep her thoughts and pain around how our misogynistic society hurts women is no more. She lowers her guard with Desi and eventually confronts her abuser in unorthodox ways. Her dreams manifest, delivering him many of the emotions she’s dealt with for decades. In the end, she exacts her revenge in both miniscule and major ways against several men. These actions have a cathartic effect, allowing her to live the rest of her days in relative freedom.
Veronica’s journey to redefine herself is certainly the film’s highlight along with its stunning cinematography and clear homages to giallo, thanks to Dario Argento’s executive producer influence. At times, the dialogue gets a bit too heavy handed to remind us that this is a film about a woman reclaiming her power and attaining vengeance over forgiveness. The line between stepping too far into “elevated horror” trope wanes at times. And, the attempts to include comedic bits for balance never quite mesh well. But She Will‘s slow and deliberate unfolding, stellar performances, and visuals will certainly strike a chord with fans of gothic horror-tinged narratives.
Fans will get to enjoy this film when it arrives to select theaters and VOD on July 15. She Will also hits Shudder on October 14.