SORCERY (2023). Review by Steve Kirkham

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SORCERY (2023)

3 stars
Sovereign. UK Cinemas. Out Now

SORCERY is based on a true story and set on the remote island of Chiloé, Chile in the late 19th century.

13 year old Rosa (Valentina Véliz Caileo) works in the household of a Christian family from Germany who have settled, like many others, in her country. One morning she notices all the sheep in the field outside the house are either dead or dying. When she fetches her father, who also works for them, he is blamed for the tragedy. Stefan (Sebastian Hülk), the owner, sets their vicious dogs on him, mauling him to death whilst holding back the young girl to witness the savage attack.

Rosa is understandably distraught and upset – though she sees herself as a Christian, like the family she works for, she is rejected by the mother Agnes (Annick Durán) and turns to her own people, and their ways, to try and find a path to vengeance. When the local mayor and the church offer no remedy, Rosa ends up at the house of local fisherman Mateo (Daniel Antivilo) and is soon drawn into the mystical beliefs of her community and the use of witchcraft as a means for revenge for the death of her father. As she begins to delve into the ancient ways, odd things start to happen – but it all remains rather ambiguous. Can they, for instance, turn people into canines? It’s never clear (though this is probably on purpose).

This is a slowburn folk horror, tinged with fantasy, with art house sensibilities. Beautifully shot by María Secco, in a palette of greys, browns and greens (and often in driving rain) this explores the traditions and beliefs of the indigenous natives and how being colonised has affected their way of life. Caileo is good in her screen debut, capturing the sorrow of her situation in her face. Despite some striking, often haunting imagery along the way, the script is too drawn out and fails to fully engage, lacking focus and narrative drive and leads to an unsatisfying conclusion.

This is in cinemas – though I suspect it won’t be playing at your local Odeon or Cineworld.

Steve Kirkham