REVIEW: ‘GWEN’ a Slow Gothic Beauty

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Gwen

A slow burn that uses the atmosphere to wash the viewer in tension, GWEN from writer-director William McGregor, is a gothic force. Making its way to Shudder later this week, GWEN tells the story of the titular character, a young girl (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) who is desperately trying to hold everything in her life together. Her mother is suffering from a mysterious illness, her father is absent, and their community is dying, while a mining company is set to take their land away.

As the darkness grows, it’s Gwen’s responsibility to pull her family through it and the increasing evil coming over them as the potatoes spoil and the sheep die. But, the darkness, the evil encroaching on Gwen and her family is the impending doom that modernity brings to her doorstep. A lot of Gwen is diving into the details of the period, of mental health, and more. This ultimately means that the film is best seen with as little information as possible. That said, GWEN is a must-see Shudder Original and brings the terror-inducing slow burn of The VVitch and the gothic beauty paired with mental manipulation of The Innocents. 

The film is not only narratively sound and slow, pulling back and crashing against you as it hits. The human moments, the ones you know are not from supernatural darkness are the most painfully beautiful to watch unfold and Worthington-Cox’s performance is award-worthy, to say the least. The emotions we feel while following her are crafted so that they cut the audience deep.

Gwen

GWEN is also a sensory experience, thanks to the stellar sound design. While I didn’t get the opportunity to screen the film in a theater, watching it with headphones in a dimmed room allowed me to put my focus on the story, to be pulled into it, to be hurt by it, and ultimately hear it. These small sounds are uncharacteristically jarring, pulling you to notice that the film has been silent for quite some time.

In the film, it’s the smallest of noises that force your perspective and build the tension. The true star of GWEN is the sense of helplessness that McGregor pushes his audience into. The frailty of both Gwen’s mother and her world is accentuated as we begin to question the cause of their misfortunes. As the bloodletting, nightmares, and fits begin, we question their origin and McGregor holds it close to his chest. It’s the pitty he draws from us, that he manipulates throughout the film.

The misty reality that Gwen and her family live in offers more questions than answers and keeps the film from truly going in on the underlying theme of the dangers of modernity for those who are on the margins. That said, GWEN is a modern gothic beauty, a fact accentuated by it’s standing as a period piece that is not just an all-white cast.

The acting from the women at the center of the harm is all well-done. Unsettling, frantic, and scared, the audience aches for them. For fans of period pieces, this is a must-watch. While it doesn’t pack the same hit as other titles in the subgenre of gothic horror it does weave its own story of woe that deserves a watch.

GWEN is available exclusively on Shudder today.

Gwen
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

The acting from the women at the center of the harm is all well-done. Unsettling, frantic, and scared, the audience aches for them. For fans of period pieces, this is a must-watch. While it doesn’t pack the same hit as other titles in the subgenre of gothic horror it does weave its own story of woe that deserves a watch.