STARVE ACRE (2023) Reviews of rural British folk horror

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Starve Acre is a 2023 British horror film – a couple’s idyllic family life is thrown into turmoil when their son starts acting strangely.

The movie is written and directed by Daniel Kokotajlo (Apostasy), based on a novel by Andrew Michael Hurley.

The House Productions movie (partly funded by the BBC and BFI) stars Matt Smith (Morbius; Last Night in Soho; His House; Patient Zero; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Doctor Who), Morfydd Clark (Dracula BBC series; Crawl; Saint Maude), Erin Richards, Matilda Firth, Robert Emms, Sean Gilder, Roger Barclay and Arthur Shaw.


” …a rather engrossing creepy horror mystery story about the oppressive forces coming out in the daylight to frighten the family enough that they seek help. It remains enigmatic, as it maintains a threatening atmospheric tone throughout. It’s buttressed by marvelous surreal images, fine performances and by being beautifully executed.” Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews

“Towards the end, Starve Acre may teeter on the edge of absurd but as an exercise in atmosphere and unsettling mood, Kokotajlo has created something close to a triumph, aided masterfully by an otherworldly score by British musician Matthew Herbert. A few more scares could have turned what is a good movie into a great one, but there’s more than enough here to disturb and horrify.” Evening Standard

“The best thing about Starve Acre is that it adds substantially to folk horror in terms of bizarro action and hints at delicious Lovecraftian mythos sunk in the soil and twisting like roots […] However, I came away disappointed with the wavering tone, wondering if this might have been a big-time crowd-pleaser if it were more lurid. Still, as it stands, this is a fantastically enigmatic horror film done beautifully well.” 8/10, Film Threat

“Along with a clamorous musical score, there are eerie close-ups on the occult undergrowth and the assumed force that through the green fuse drives the flower of darkness […] Smith and Clark, at the head of a very capable supporting cast, keep the movie on an even dramatic keel, with intelligent, thought-through performances putting life back into some familiar tropes.” ★★★ The Guardian

“Despite running at only 98 minutes, Starve Acre takes a while to fully execute its mysterious, intriguing premise, which causes a dip in energy in the middle. But when it commits and runs with it, the results are chilling, albeit frustratingly brief and introduced with some lurching, rushed exposition. Smith and Clark both wow with two intertwining performances…” ★★★½ Loud and Clear

Succinct spoiler review ★★ Of All the Film Sites

“As things move to a disturbing, yet economically handled payoff, the film’s shift into the realm of the all-out bizarre is held neatly in check by naturalistic, quietly intense performances. Smith, sporting floppy post-hippie hair, is increasingly rueful and introverted as a rationalist who finds himself headed down a tunnel of furtive obsession; while Clark projects a sometimes childlike vulnerability that comes as the reverse side of a fiercely protective rage.” Screen Daily

” …what happens at the Willoughby farm might be regarded as a descent into a madness whose very shared nature signifies the couple’s enduring, unhinged commitment to each other. Or it might be their dazed participation in an ancient endemic ritual of renewal that has waited generations to spread fresh shoots, nourished by grief. Either way, this 1970s-set folk horror, unnervingly scored by Matthew Herbert, unearths something primaeval and toxic at the very roots of a once, and perhaps again, happy family.” Sight and Sound

“The film delivers straight-up scares and low, lingering atmospheric dread in muddy spades […] The volatile, dissonant score by Matthew Herbert meanwhile, is a continual astonishment, its appropriately chamber-folky instrumentation often swelling and contorting into glassy shrieks — as if on behalf of the more repressed characters on screen. No one person in Starve Acre screams, speaks or behaves quite as people should, which is key to the film’s baleful pull: Kokotajlo, at least, brings a fierce discipline to its disorder.” Variety

Starve Acre is powered by brilliant central performances from Smith and Clark, particularly Clark who after Saint Maud is establishing herself in these creepy roles […]  Whilst some will complain there aren’t enough scares (not me – a certified horror wimp) and others that the plot is too familiar (there is a grim familiarity to everything that happens) Starve Acre is a satisfyingly creepy, gothic tale of loss, obsession and the occult.” ★★★½ We Talk Film

Starve Acre premiered at the London Film Festival on October 13, 2023.

Technical specs:
1 hour 38 minutes

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