First, Gwen will not appeal to many horror fans, it tends to lean more to a dark drama, with thick a gothic overtone, a slight nod to folklore horror with human monsters, all thanks to director and writer William McGregor who paints a bleak storyline filled with sexism, misfortune, and treachery all occurring in the beginning of the industrial age narrative.
In a small valley of Wales, the industrial world awakens, showing that what’s in the earth is far more valuable than what’s on it, in it lives a small poor farming family suffering without their father (who’s off at war) and dire need of salvation but getting horrendous crops. It all starts innocently enough, with the title character Gwen (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) and her younger sister Mari (Jodi Innes) engaging in a game of keep away while blindfolded before returning home to a tongue lashing from her mother Elen (Maxine Peake) about neglecting their farm duties; those unaware farming is a hard job. Aside from a myriad of other issues, including murder livestock and shunned at the marketplace and their biggest conflict comes from the local mining company aggressively pressuring them to sell the land. Suddenly, hardship grows darker with Gwen’s mother taken ill with seizures, with some medicines offered by Dr. Wren (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Roadkill ), who seems willing to share, incidentally his character’s last name holds in Celts later founded in Wales, as possessed and revered for his charisma. Gwen suffers torments in every regard, punishment rains upon the family in unrelenting cruelty. Even a greater shock to some audience the mistreatment of the women in this era, which correctly shows it, that they were ignored, cast aside without respect by all men as the sole bearers of the family, workplace and society, all inherited and blessed by God. However, in the film one realizes that the Devil works in mysterious ways, granting to victors the spoils of torment. The true essence of occultism exists briefly in one scene of Gwen committing a blasphemous act of throwing a cross into a fire, and this again appears as more of defiance to the Lord than Satanic, all the worship lead to destruction and loss of her family and faith.
The entire movie sets from the beginning with layers despair and greed, cinematographer (Adam Etherington) showing that through greys and thick blackness, leading to brooding turmoil, clearly foreshadowing the impending hardship. The location plays a wonderful character with threatening atmosphere, an interesting aspect comes with the usage of sound rather music in the background, the cracks and booms of thundering generate fresh jump scares and jolts, aided by creaking doors. Overall, a slow burn with thick fog which makes one think of classic versions of Hound of the Baskervilles i.e. (1932 and 1959). Meanwhile the costume designer had the outfits all fit the proper dress of the time, thanks to Dinah Collin, who waited 26-years to return to the horror genre, from her only other production in the field called The Vampyr: A Soap Opera (1992), although her credits tally over 100. Eleanor carries the majority of the film and conveys her emotions extremely like that of Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch (2015), and knows when to make her role submissive, uncontrollable mournful and independent especially in the scenes with Maxine Peake.
As stated earlier this movie might work well with some horror fans, as that aspect hides itself fairy well for much of the film, it works with macabre and gothic values, generating a slow burn for impending doom. McGregor does well in conveying the outdated beliefs for the modern audiences to understand and rachet up the clever story.
IMDb Rating: 5.9/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10