Believe it or not, this week’s pick is the first witch film of Horror Month 2022! I feel we’re merely at the beginning of a witch Renaissance in horror, so fingers crossed for next year’s Halloween theme. Dare I hope Horror Month may eventually transform into Witch Month?
While recovering from surgery at an estate where witches were executed en masse, a retired actor connects with the land and its vengeful spirit.
Following major surgery, former film star Veronica Ghent retreats to the Scottish countryside. She hopes to find quiet as she recovers, and above all to be left alone. But this is horror world, so chances are pretty slim.
Veronica is haunted by memories of working with a renowned film director, now honored with a lifetime achievement award of some description. According to rather vague accounts, the director approached film-making intensely, to the point of unethical and even abusive. It seems unjust that, as the director is being celebrated, Veronica is suffering from illness and chronic pain.
Good thing Veronica has a nurse, Desi, to manage pain and ensure a healthy recovery…or not. While Desi does her best to help, Veronica disdainfully rejects her advice. Making matters worse, the solitude Veronica hoped for isn’t meant to be as there are other guests at the Scottish retreat, some of whom recognize her. The eccentric artist who owns the retreat (Rupert Everett!) insists on some bullshit rich people activities that you could do at home for $10,000 less, I’m assuming.
As Veronica settles into the cottage, she feels haunted by another presence. Could this feeling be connected to the thousands of witches burned on this site in the 18th century? I mean, yeah. There are creepy effects for days, particularly the ashes and mud that seemingly come to life with the spirits of vengeful witches.
Increasingly, Veronica develops strange habits and powers, connected to the rage in the past and in the landscape itself. In possibly my favorite moment of the film, she manages to light a misogynist’s hand on fire with her mind, and things only escalate from there.
If the synopsis so far doesn’t immediately bump this film up in your queue, I’m not sure this blog has much to offer you.
4/5 Pink Panther Heads
It’s been a love it or hate it month in many ways, and this film fits in well. This is a fairly slow build, though Veronica’s simmering anger makes things compelling from the beginning, setting up a conclusion that’s extremely gratifying. The themes and messaging of the film are not subtle at all, but in the best possible way.
From the old-fashioned train cars to the rustic and secluded estate, the film has a feeling of disconnection from any specific time–appropriately for themes of patriarchal control and the power of women’s rage, which really aren’t confined by time. The connection to the physical elements of the land, particularly the mud and ashes, does the effective work of underlining the physical transformation of people and places by trauma. On the other hand, this visceral connection to the past allows Veronica to draw on the power and experiences of those before her.
I am tired and not playing my A game in analysis, though I did very much appreciate this film. It’s pure wish fulfillment, honestly. Retreat to a secluded Scottish estate and develop witchy revenge powers? Yes, please.