Bloody women. Once doomed to be stalked as prey, the “females” in indie horror movies are now more likely to deal the killer blow. Thankfully, such anti-heroines don’t conform to a type (some are lone wolves, others are egged on by a crowd; some are sane, others not so much). What these figures share is a conviction that the time is nigh to let rip. Suffice to say, if you were thrilled by the wonky protagonists of Midsommar, Saint Maud and Censor (i.e Dani, Katie/Maud and Enid), you’ll lose your wig over icy diva turned ethereal assassin, Veronica Ghent.
Following a double masectomy, sixtysomething movie star Ghent (Alice Krige; masterful) slopes off to lick her wounds at a Scottish retreat. She’s hoping for seclusion. Instead, she and her young American nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt; possibly inspired by Kristen Stewart’s lovely performance in Clouds of Sils Maria), are greeted by OTT art therapist, Tirador (Rupert Everett; oppressive in just the right way).
Tirador’s noisy clients gawp at Veronica, clearly titillated by news that the film which propelled Ghent to stardom, age 13, is to be remade by the original director, Eric Hathbourne (Malcolm McDowell). Ghent was the nymphet of her day. Now she’s in the news, precisely because she’s yesterday’s news.
If Ghent is deemed past it, Hathbourne is a man in his professional prime. But maybe Veronica knows something about Eric the world doesn’t. And maybe the ground beneath her feet (heaving with the cremated remains of Scotland’s most defiant women, aka women burnt as witches) will help her take him on and save Desi from a nightmarish trip.
First-time director Charlotte Colbert (who co-wrote the script) is a natural born magician; she conjures atmosphere out of thin Scottish air, using precisely dreamy montages to skip through time and space. Ghent’s lines are a joy: looking at the tomboyish Desi she says, wonderingly, “Androgyny, so attractive in the young, so repugnant in the old”. Essentially, Veronica’s mission is as much about exploding beauty myths as vengeance. She embarks on a new relationship with her own body and a scene in which she sinks her bandaged and breast-less self into a bath is both disturbing and insanely moving. Colbert seeks to scar, rather than scare. And she succeeds.
Admittedly, some of the supporting characters are a tad undeveloped. That said, Veronica and Desi fill the gaps (She Will, obviously, aces the Bechdel test).
You won’t remember that title. Krige and Eberhardt’s glowing eyes, by contrast, are impossible to forget.