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[Movie Review] Dachra: Curse of the Witch (2018) ★★★☆☆

The creepy girl they followed into the woods in Dachra 2018

Dachra is dark haunting tale of witchcraft and folklore.

Dachra: Curse of the Witch is a Tunisian supernatural occult folk horror film with a dark atmosphere. With a gloomy dark vibe, a slow pace and three bickering students, a dark tale of witchcraft and folk horror takes shape. It’s an unnerving and disturbing film that mostly manages to crawl under your skin. With a strong beginning and a terrifying ending it knows how to shock and scare, only faltering in the middle, struggling with some time to kill, before the actual slaughter commences. 


Three journalism students, Yassmine, Bilel and Walid have to do a research project with an original and immersive story. They decide to work together and Walid comes up with a story about a woman who was found 20 years ago alongside the road with her throat cut and nearly dead. She was found by the state police, brought to the hospital and now is institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital. She allegedly bit off the nose of a nurse and crawls around the room, and is suspected of being a witch. 

This would make an excellent story but when they talk to the managing director of the hospital he says he has never heard of this woman called Mongia. Via Walid’s connections and bribing the guards, at night they get to take a look at her and interview her, but she responds in a very odd way when she sees Yassmine and points at the map where she was found. The following day, they drive to the spot and walk through the forest to finally find a small village, a particular girl and a woman dressed all in black. The woman of Yassmine’s recurring nightmares…  

Why you should watch it

Dachra is a slow paced film that builds a dark atmosphere. It centers around Yassmine and her recurring nightmares and her grandfather’s worries about her. Immediately it becomes clear that he hides a secret from her which she only is to find out when they reach the little village in the middle of the woods. While the duration is quite long, it isn’t filled with scares or in-depth characterization. Nor is the folklore of what is happening in the village fully explored. It mostly conjures up a dark and malicious vibe that seemingly none of the characters get affected by, that is, until the very end. 

The structure and buildup are therefore not fully balanced out and the part when they finally reach the village becomes tedious very quickly. It feels like they are running around in circles, trying to get home, but stay, want to leave, but can’t, bicker some more, fight with each other, relying on Saber, the only man in the village, while not trusting him. They go back and forth for a far too long time, while it is immediately clear that something is very wrong in this place. 

First of all, Saber is the only man. The girl whom they followed to the village was eating a dead pigeon and she acts very strangely. The women aren’t allowed to talk to them and Saber tries to get them to stay. Everywhere meat and intestines are hanging on washing lines. The trio seems to miss or dismiss all the signs that something is terribly wrong here, for no apparent reason. It’s not that they are too occupied with creating and filming a compelling story for their project. The camera and the interviews and the investigation, the reason why they are actually there in the first place, are too easily dismissed and they become very passive, but still able to fight amongst each other. 

In the end, most of it makes sense, and the story is connected to Yassmine and her past. But the foreboding atmosphere falls flat in the middle of the film and it therefore feels that the film was 30 minutes too long. Still, the way the story is filmed, the original camera angles, the music and the set designs all create a highly ominous vibe, while the trio stays unaware of what’s coming, keeping them playful, obnoxious and sometimes even childish. It’s a contrast that can sometimes feels like they are making all the wrong decisions and turns an overall original folkloric tale into a generic horror. 

The ending though, brings much gore, a witch, blood and a horrifying reveal. Still, the witch herself could have played a far more threatening and supernatural role, like it did when Yassmine’s grandfather followed her to the village. Much of the folkloric horror stays at a visceral level story-wise, while the execution is all too graphic.

My favorite part

The scene in the library was a very promising scene and it really gave me the creeps. But the strangeness of the village chased it away, because Yassmine turned into a very passive woman, instead of the fierce woman she was in the city. It does have a reason though and is explained when she’s reading the journal of another woman who went there in search for a story. But still, it feels unsatisfying. The design of the witch however was really creepy, but it seemed to haunt the grandfather even more, turning his ordeals into something more terrifying and maddening than the nightmares of Yassmine. It definitely has some eerie and really terrifying dark moments, but the whole film is too stretched out to benefit from it and therefore neglecting to turn it into something awfully scary. 


Rating: ★★★☆☆

Gore factor: ★★★★☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★☆☆

Cast and crew

Dachra: Curse of the Witch is directed and written by Abdelhamid Bouchnak. It stars Yassmine Dimassi (Yassmine), Aziz Jebali (Walid), Bilel Slatnia (Bilel), Hala Ayed (Mongia), Bahri Rahali (Grandfather), and Hedi Majri (Saber).

Duration: 113 minutes. Music: Rached Hmaoui. Cinematography: Hatem Nechi. Edited by: Abdelhamid Bouchnak. Produced by: Abdelhamid Bouchnak, Omar Ben Ali. Production companies: Shkoon Productions, SVP Production. Distributed by: Hakka Distribution, Wolf Consultants, Netflix. 

Check the trailer below

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