FILM COLUMN – Matriarch

MATRIARCH is a disturbing British folk horror which turns out to be unsettling and nightmarish for a very different set of reasons.

Director Ben Steiner toys with his audience throughout and treats us to plenty of dark supernatural moments, but it is the complex and often disturbing relationship between the two central characters that really twists the knife in deep.

Now showing on Stars over on Disney+, Matriarch is set in a sleepy English hamlet where Laura Birch (Jemima Rooper) has returned to escape the pressure and loneliness of her life in London as an advertising executive. She hasn’t seen her mother in 20 years but takes up the unexpected invitation to visit her to try and put the demons of the past to rest.

Her mother Celia (Kate Dickie) hasn’t aged a day in the intervening years but is as nasty a piece of work as ever. The toxic relationship between the two women is highly volatile and shows little sign of resolution.

Laura struggles to keep a lid on her overwrought emotions, while her mother’s only concern seems to be getting her daughter down to the shed at the back of the house.

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The townspeople – when not openly fornicating and making a general nuisance of themselves – are clearly hiding a dark secret, one which not only involves her family but her own grim destiny as well.

Unnerving and a little warped, Steiner’s movie comes off like a more perverse and twisted take on The Wicker Man, just not half as satisfying, and leaves far too many questions unanswered.

But between the human drama and the creepy and often nefarious carrying on of the sweaty and wanton village folk, this atmospheric folk horror does leave an impression despite its many foibles.