Stories of folk horror always have something raw about them that makes us engrossed. “She Will” ups the ante of folk horror by blending it with childhood trauma, and it doesn’t seem out of place at all. The film is not really a horror flick, although it does have some supernatural and creepy elements. The gloomy visuals, as well as the background score, do add subtle dark touches, but overall, “She Will” compels the viewer to think before deciding to get scared.
What Happens In ‘She Will’ Film?
Aged Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige), along with her caretaker Desi (Kota Eberhardt), has come to a Scottish resort to recover from her recent double mastectomy. But to Veronica’s utter disgust, the place seems to be the opposite of one that offers the healing that comes with silence. A handful of people, all of whom know about her once-upon-a-time popularity as the young minor actress in famed director Eric Hathbourne’s (Malcolm McDowell) 1969 classic Navajo Frontier, is the last thing she needed. As the story progresses, we find out that Veronica was sexually abused by Hathbourne. And with him being in the news once again as he is about to make the sequel to his classic, all of Veronica’s thoughts are targeted towards him as well as rooted in him and what he did to her.
Next, we find out that the soil around the place where she is staying has something in it, some kind of dark matter that has found Veronica as its window. It is believed that the soil contains the ashes of witches who were burned there hundreds of years ago. Sure enough, Veronica too starts to have dreams and visions of witches and fire, with her being one of the witches. As the film progresses, we see how she comes out of her traumatized, wretched self and is able to turn her pain into something entirely different.
The Flaws of Fame
Towards the beginning of “She Will,” we find out that Veronica Ghent has recently undergone a double mastectomy. However, that she is unable to cope with the fact that she has grown old is visible when we see her putting on breast pads and makeup. By doing this, she is trying to retain her former beauty for which she was known, especially after the popularity of her film, Navajo Frontier. Furthermore, director Eric Hathbourne is making a sequel to Navajo Frontier and is still in the limelight of the media, whereas she has been completely forgotten and is being talked about for the way she has aged since she was seen in the cult classic in the 1960s.
There is another way to look at Veronica here. She is trying to regain her former glow, which is perhaps also a way to show that she is regaining her powers. Her dreams do suggest that she was a witch in a past life, but we do not know for sure. And when we see her in her red attire and red lipstick, it clearly gives us the vibes of someone who has risen from the dead. In other words, she has ultimately come out of her traumatic self. But this, again, is partly the result of the supernatural roots of the past of which she may or may not have been a part. This brings us to the next topic of our discussion.
Folklore and Trauma
As the film progresses, we find that there’s more to Veronica than meets the eye. After falling asleep at night, she has out-of-body experiences that take her among witches. Sins against women, that have been committed for ages (from being burnt alive to being molested), take the shape of Veronica’s body. Just like the ground, upon which witches were burned alive, still carries their ashes, Veronica’s body too carries the marks (more figuratively than literally) of the sexual abuse she underwent at the hands of her director, Eric Hathbourne. One can choose to forget them, but they will always remain. Also, the recurring sludge that is first encountered by Denis symbolizes Veronica’s trauma and how Denis has become an intrinsic part of it and thus of Veronica’s life. That’s why the sludge doesn’t harm Denis. Veronica’s coming to terms with her trauma is shown by the sludge turning up in Veronica’s dreams, where we see her walking in the sludge. She had hidden the trauma behind her mask, which was basically a bubble of fame and youth, but no more.
Again, as we mentioned earlier, it is not known whether Veronica was a witch in a past life or if she somehow turned into one due to the ashes found in the soil around the place where she was staying. However, she does gain supernatural powers akin to a witch. It seems that as she is coming to terms with her trauma (and coming out of her submissive self, which is making her powerful), the soil is also getting its hold over her and turning her into something more than herself. And vice-versa, i.e., as the soil affects her, she becomes more powerful and is able to come out of her trauma. Perhaps the soil can be compared to some sort of supernatural symbiote that feeds on the dominant emotions of the body. Furthermore, the fire that we see time and again doesn’t just burn Veronica. It purifies her as well.
‘She Will’ Ending Explained: Does Veronica Find Peace?
Witches have been a significant part of Gothic folklore since time immemorial. And for “She Will” to use this motif and create a dynamic with girl-child sexual abuse is undoubtedly an effective way to point the finger at it and, ask the question, “For how long?” Ultimately, at the end of the film, Veronica is able to take her revenge on Eric Hathbourne by using her new-found powers. There is also a hint of revenge fantasy at this point, as she, as a symbol of women who have been wrongfully punished (many women were burnt alive merely on the basis of the belief that they were witches [this is not to say that burning witches (if they really existed) was justified either]), makes the culprit face the consequences of his actions. And keeping in mind that she has become a witch or at least gained the powers of a witch, revenge is served cold.
At the end of the film, we see that Veronica is “glad” that Desi has come back to get her. She is finally ready to go back home after having come to terms with her trauma. We do not know if her powers as a witch are still with her, although her red attire on the train is a bright nod to it. Be that as it may, her sickness is gone, and even if she has lost her former fame and popularity, she has gained her true self, one that is finally able to appreciate the one thing that matters to her, Desi. In this way, “She Will” also establishes the relationship between two women of different generations; Desi, who was, towards the beginning of the film, the mother figure, taking care of Veronica and her tantrums, has, by the end of the film, become the daughter-figure, being soothed by Veronica who has now become the mother.
The title of the film “She Will” denotes that Veronica Ghent “will” prevail. Also, it shows how her “will” eventually helps her get over her childhood trauma after all these years. It is Veronica’s will that is the root of her becoming more than herself and doing what needed to be done. It is only because the film uses the motif of witchcraft that we, as viewers, do not judge Veronica for killing Hathbourne. And we are glad about it, aren’t we?