Review: Dachra (2021)

  • Director: Abdelhamid Bouchnak
  • Writer: Abdelhamid Bouchnak
  • Stars: Yassmine Dimassi, Aziz Jebali, Bilel Slatnia

Review

Witches and witchcraft span all cultures and all countries. In Dachra, witchcraft or the threat of it is very much alive. Set in Tunisia, the story is set around three journalism students at University that need a topic for a class project. One of the students Walid (Jebal) suggest that he can get them an interview with Mongia, a resident at the mental health facility that people claim is a witch. After the interview turns violent, the students change tack and decide to find the village that Mongia was from. When they get there, everything seems a little off, from the completely silent women, the over the top friendly village local, the non stop cooking of meat and the creepy child that seems to appear and disappear at random intervals… is there a secret in the village or is it paranoia?

From the opening seconds Bouchnak creates a creepy atmosphere. The film is shot beautifully but the colours are then drained out of it, helping maintain the atmosphere that has been created. The film is grim but it certainly isn’t without humour. Bilel (Slatnia) and Walid mercilessly insulting each other whenever the opportunity arrives, their banter is pretty good and he timing between the two is spot on. Yassmine (Dimassi) is the most serious character of the three and with good reason, she is plagued by dreams of the woman in black and has been for most of her life, she acts as a good foil for the other two.

Bouchnak also manages to hit us with a few jump scares, nothing new of course but on top of the creep factor they are quite effective. The imagery is also very powerful, there are two shots in particular that I haven’t been able to shake one involving a small child in the forest and another involving an infant. The music further enhances the atmosphere as well, Rached Hmaoui’s music really brings a pall over everything, the downbeat piano letting us know that where we are travelling to isn’t a place you would want to go.

The film has a number of themes running through it, older generation versus younger generation and the eschewing of religion by the young (something that gets addressed with the subplot of Yassmine and her Grandpa). The film states that it is based on a true story and yes you’ve seen those words written a million times but at the end of the film you get hit with it – that in North Africa hundreds of children are killed during acts of witchcraft. Dachra is one of the best horror films this year.

Dachra is available now (USA).

Ryan Morrissey-Smith | Twitter: @TigersMS78

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