Review: In ‘She Will,’ an aging movie star seeks vengeance, and more movies for the weekend
Most horror movies — even the “elevated” ones — fit into some recognizable narrative tradition, such as “ghost story” or “slasher.” But it’s hard to categorize writer-director Charlotte Colbert’s visually splendid, emotionally raw “She Will” (co-written with Kitty Percy). It’s sort of a supernatural thriller; but it’s more of a wry and strikingly poetic vision of feminist retribution.
Produced by Dario Argento (who knows a thing or two about twisting old genres into astonishing new shapes), “She Will” stars Alice Krige as Veronica Ghent, a faded movie star who at the start of the picture is recovering from a double mastectomy and checks into a funky, artsy retreat in the Scottish wilderness with her new assistant/nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt). There, between all the therapeutic drawing classes and tedious cocktail hours, Veronica discovers the land used to be a site for burning witches — and that the restless souls of those women can reshape reality to the benefit of the embittered actress.
Colbert doesn’t over-explain what the ghosts — and, by extension, Veronica — can and can’t do. Most of the story’s pertinent information is suggested silently, via the dreamy images (made luminous and slightly abstract by cinematographer Jamie D. Ramsay), just as much of the hypnotic mood is carried by Clint Mansell’s richly textured score. The movie’s action, meanwhile, is driven by the news that a legendary director (played by Malcolm McDowell) is making a new version of the film that launched Veronica’s career, back when she was a teenager. As she reflects on that time, she remembers the abuse more than the triumph; and she starts wondering whether she can use her new powers to get some closure.
The one overt nod to the “Me Too” movement in “She Will” comes via a loudmouth at the retreat who complains that women “change everything in hindsight.” But more subtly, this all-too-common criticism of sexual assault cases defines the movie’s violent revenge fantasies. Veronica lived through a time as an actress where men didn’t just control the business, they also determined what was acceptable behavior. Now, empowered by generations of wronged women, she’s bound to force those dudes to take accountability for what they actually did.
‘She Will.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 36 minutes. Laemmle Glendale; the Frida Cinema, Santa Ana; Vineland Drive-in, City of Industry; also available on VOD
In an elegant Cape Town home, an aging live-in servant named Mavis (Nosipho Mtebe) has been working for decades for a now-bedridden and possibly dying boss. When Mavis’ daughter Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) arrives for an open-ended visit, she begins to question the dynamic in the house. Is what’s happening here a sad remnant of apartheid-era South Africa, where an older Black woman can’t stop devoting her life to a white lady? Or do all the strange symbols and totems scattered about indicate that Mavis has actually been bewitched?
In the psychodrama “Good Madam,” director Jenna Cato Bass (also credited for the screenplay alongside producer Babalwa Baartman and the entire cast) suggests this isn’t really a yes-or-no question. Bass’ film is hushed and slow-moving, but effectively so, as it invites viewers to explore these comfortable suburban spaces alongside Tsidi, and to think about how people can become ensorcelled in more ordinary ways — like by the illusion of authority or a proximity to wealth.
Gradually, “Good Madam” unravels the years of tension between Mavis and Tsidi, who was mostly raised in a poor neighborhood by her grandmother while her mother devoted her time to her employer and to Tsidi’s older, more successful half brother. The movie doesn’t shy away from magic spells and arcane African blood rituals, but the real dark mojo that Bass is bringing so starkly to the big screen involves the cycles and privilege and exclusion that seems to persist through every attempt at exorcism.
‘Good Madam.’ In Xhosa with English subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour, 32 minutes. Available on Shudder
Writer-director Diego Hallivis and his writer-producer brother Julio bring a fair amount of nuance to their horror satire “American Carnage.” They’ve taken a broad and hooky premise and populated it with well-developed characters, brought to life by a talented young cast. And unlike some filmmakers tackling hot-button political issues, the Hallivis brothers don’t treat their heroes as rhetorical pawns, deployed strategically to win an argument. They ground the movie’s amped-up sense of outrage in likable characters with eclectic personalities and backstories.
Jorge Lendeborg Jr. plays JP, who gets caught up in a statewide sweep of migrants and their American-born children (arrested for failing to report their parents to the authorities). He and his fellow prisoners are offered the chance to earn back their freedom by helping the elderly in a nursing home. But not long after JP arrives, he discovers the facility is just a front for an operation intended to exploit the forgotten and the marginalized.
The nature of that exploitation is a surprise best left unspoiled. It’s what puts the “horror” into this picture; and it’s what ultimately turns it into a more conventional, plot-driven thriller, as JP and his pals rally to try to escape their strange situation and expose the creeps behind it. Until “American Carnage” hits that wall, though, it’s a lively, impassioned and only slightly exaggerated take on how some people use anti-immigrant sentiment to distract from their own monstrous crimes.
‘American Carnage.’ R, for some disturbing violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, nudity and drug use. 1 hour, 40 minutes. In limited release; also available on VOD
South Africa’s Pearson Conservatory provides the eye-catching location for writer-director Kelsey Egan’s post-apocalyptic melodrama “Glasshouse” (co-written by Emma Lungiswa de Wet). Set in a world where an airborne toxin called “the Shred” destroys its victims’ memories, the film follows one family — nearly all women, aside from one infected son — that has established “the Sanctuary” within an abandoned greenhouse. Their peaceful, prosperous existence is threatened when one of the daughters brings home a wounded man (Hilton Pelser). Egan and company spend more time establishing atmosphere and expanding on the Sanctuary’s mythology than on telling a fully developed story. Still, “Glasshouse” holds back a few provocative secrets for its final third; and throughout, Egan borrows from the likes of “The Beguiled” and leans into the sensuality of her premise, in which a handful of lonely ladies are suddenly delivered a handsome stranger.
‘Glasshouse.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 37 minutes. Available on VOD
‘The Silent Party’
Like a lot of revenge stories, the spare, discomfiting Argentine thriller “The Silent Party” challenges audience’s expectations, pushing them to question their own bloodlust. Jazmín Stuart plays Laura, a reluctant bride-to-be who sneaks away from her father’s house the night before her wedding, stumbles across a party and ends up getting sexually assaulted. She and her family set out to get retribution, but then video footage of the incident raises questions about Laura’s complicity (in the minds of her father and her fiancé, anyway). Director Diego Fried, co-director Federico Finkielstain and screenwriter Nicolas Gueilburt move their plot inexorably toward a few climactic moments of explosive violence. But for the most part, “The Silent Party” is a quietly intense drama, focusing closely on its heroine and the unbearable pressures of a life spent surrounded by hyper-controlling chauvinists.
‘The Silent Party.’ In Spanish with English subtitles. Not rated. 1 hours, 27 minutes. Available on VOD
Also on streaming
“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” is a must for fans of the long-running Fox prime-time cartoon series and may even win some converts — even though the movie actually drops viewers right into the ongoing story of the oddball Belcher family and their failing beachside restaurant, with minimal setup. The show’s creative team and voice cast deliver what amounts to a typically unpredictable quadruple-length episode, involving a financial catastrophe, a carny murder and multiple catchy musical numbers. Available on HBO Max and Hulu
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Raging Bull” routinely lands on lists of the greatest movies of all time, hailed for Robert De Niro’s terrifying performance as brutish boxer Jake La Motta and director Martin Scorsese’s fusion of gritty realism and dazzling theatricality. The Criterion Collection’s 4K UHD edition includes video essays, interviews, behind-the-scenes documentary featurettes and three separate commentary tracks. Criterion
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