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Gwen - Movie Review

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Arthouse films have a lot to offer fans of the horror genre.  Gwen, operating as a feminist folk tale, is yet another example of that statement.   

Watching Gwen (Eleanor Winifred Worthington Cox) and her mother (Maxine Peake) roll around in a pile of bloody horse flesh might not be your cup of tea but the results are extremely haunting.  That’s a good thing, too, because there’s not a lot that goes on in this chilling tale - especially if you aren't paying attention - but the scene is a strong one and it is just one in several which will haunt you long after the closing credits roll. 

"While it will remind you of The Witch in certain parts, Gwen is something uniquely different as it gives voice to a certain aspect of men"

Gwen, from writer/director William McGregor (Poldark), is a film about struggles and total abandonment, yet the film constantly hints at something supernatural that is working (or is it worming?!?!) against this family.  The truth is that something much more closer to home is at work here and it is monstrous.  

Clocking in at 84-minutes, this hypnotizing film is a gothic folk tale whose edges haunt the absolutely atmospheric north hills of a stirring 19th Century Snowdonia.  This slow burn of a tale is supposed to wash over you; staining you with its intense images as one family’s fate hangs in the balance thanks to a deal gone south.

Gwen is watching her mother succumb to a bizarre illness.  Something is causing her to have a string of seizures at the home, in the fields, and in church and Gwen, having to prepare meals and take care of her sister, isn’t sure what to do about anything.  The dead are all around them thanks to cholera.

And, that night, Gwen is scolded for being late.  With her father nowhere to be seen, it is up to the women to band together if they are to make a living for themselves in the Welsh hills.  Their struggles are only beginning, though.  Animal hearts get nailed to their front door; their flock of sheep are mutilated; and soon even their horse must be killed.

It is odd then that, as the villagers talk up the quarry that owns everything, Gwen and her family find themselves with less and less friends.  Even selling vegetables at the market proves to be unsuccessful; they are a marked family, but why?  Gwen’s mother, even in her darkest of moods, can remember when they had friends; when things were working for them, but now everything seems . . . so distant and so damn hard.

The fact of the matter is that Gwen is a hard movie to watch.  While its lead actor, Eleanor Worthington Cox, received the Toronto International Film Festival Rising Star award for her performance at the film’s premiere, this horror film operates like a tone poem.  Sure, it is frightening but the point is the pressure that is piled on and on Gwen and her family.  Everything here hinges on mood as the film swings in one continuous movement toward its atmospheric climax. Gwen

Gwen hinges on the pressure it builds for this family and the hopelessness that practically swallows them whole.  There are a few jump scares so that boxes can be checked for horror aficionados, but this film plays it cards of evil in a masterful way, choosing not to be obvious with what will eventually scare you to death.

While it will remind you of The Witch in certain parts, Gwen is something uniquely different as it gives voice to a certain aspect of men.  It is almost as it doesn’t want to be in any genre at all, which is fine with me.  Select audiences will eat this tale of Gothicism up.  True, they – thanks to the heavy shadows that descend into this flick – might also see things that aren’t there, but the careful observer will be rewarded by some of McGregor’s thick brushes as he mixes outrage with a creeping feeling of dread that, ultimately, cannot be contained.

Gwen is worth seeking out.  It is now playing in select cities around the United States.

3/5 stars



Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor:
Available on Blu-ray

Screen Formats:

Region Encoding:


MPAA Rating: Unrated.
84 mins
: William McGregor
William McGregor
Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Richard Harrington
: Horror

Memorable Movie Quote: "As the bird passes from the body, so does the evil."
Theatrical Distributor:
RLJ Entertainment
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 16, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Gwen is a young girl whose life seems to be collapsing around her. Struggling with her mother’s mysterious illness, her father's absence and a group of angry villagers threatening to take her farm, Gwen must find the strength to guide her family through the darkness. But as a malevolent presence begins to take grip of her home, it becomes apparent there is a greater evil that may be too strong to overcome.


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