This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY JACK RANSOM OCTOBER 18, 2023
Folk horror has always been of great interest to me, with features such as a The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, Don’t Look Now establishing that grittier, authentic 60’s and 70’s filmmaking harshness and more recently Ari Aster’s double helping of depression (Hereditary & Midsommar) greatly striking a chord with horror fans. Whilst Starve Acre borrows heavily from these aforementioned features, it unfortunately cannot match the originality and impact these delivered. That being said, it certainly isn’t without its own merits: both in its performances and suitably bleak atmosphere.
Starve Acre sees the idyllic rural family life of a couple (Matt Smith & Morfydd Clark) get thrown into turmoil when their son starts acting out of character.
Grief and denial is at the forefront of this film and is accentuated nicely by the drip feeding of its disturbing folklore mythology (of which I wish there was more of). Dandelion Jack is the demonic presence that the family centrepiece is to be wary of, and the final third is where fans of the mythological side of the genre will truly be at home. It’s just a shame that the journey to get there can feel overbearingly slow and familiar at times, with the screenplay also being persistently on the nose throughout.
Stylistically I thoroughly appreciated what was on display in Starve Acre. The harsh, isolated rural 70’s countryside is a consistently bleak and beautifully dampened setting. There are plenty of stark, genuinely unnerving images on display here. Most notable of all being a narratively essential hare. Which, whilst suitably creepy, is the victim of a level of artificiality and unintentional comedy with its stiff demeanour and occasional CGI shot. The score might just be the highlight of the whole picture. It’s a consistently overbearing and dominating presence, that elevates many of the sequences.
As previously mentioned these roles are very familiar territory for this genre. Both Matt Smith and Morfydd Clark deliver strong performances. The former brings a layer of cold heartedness, obsession and denial. Clark matches the denial, yet escalates into grief stricken mania and desperation. Supporting performers Erin Richards and Sean Gilder also do a good job here.
Starve Acre is a solidly atmospheric and engaging folk horror gem that certainly will tick a lot of boxes for diehard fans of the genre, however is lacking in its own originality and genuine tension. The performances are committed and the stylistic elements are standout enough to make it worth checking out.