Dachra (What Not to Do Witchcraft Film)


Criticizing horror movies for stupid character behavior is often wishful thinking–humans do silly things under stress, and nobody knows how we’d react in extreme situations until we’re in them. But poor decision-making by movie characters serves a dramatic purpose: it makes us feel superior to them. Telegraphing the missteps that lead to bad outcomes is a release valve. “That would never be me,” we say, and rest our heads easy. Case in point: Tunisia’s Dachra. It tells of a trio of journalism students who interview a mysterious psychiatric patient rumored to be a witch. When they track down the unidentified woman’s origins, they find a strange village full of taciturn locals fond of raw meat. What are the villagers hiding, and is it connected to the nightmares that plague the crew’s leader?


The script is riddled with dumb decisions: ignoring warnings, not asking obvious questions, remaining in the situation unbelievably long. A third-act revelation makes some of these boneheaded moves more credible, but mainly they serve as examples for viewers of what not to do. Dachra has an agenda. A title at the end lists the number of Tunisian children who go missing yearly, and Bouchnak has spoken of the film as a cautionary tale about witchcraft and how it endangers children. In truth, the people most harmed by witchcraft superstitions are the purported witches themselves: usually women, racialized “others,” and the mentally ill. Rather than reckon with this messy reality, Bouchnak gives viewers an easy out: don’t be like these morons, and you needn’t fear black magic. With an eye for arcane wooded atmosphere and a preference for chaotic closeups, Dachra is a beautifully executed horror film. But if you have a low tolerance for idiocy, or you are sensitive to supernatural scapegoating, you can find similar chills elsewhere.


Dachra Official Facebook

Written by Cthulen, Dead Dreamer

Dachra (2021, US)
Abdelhamid Bouchnak
4 / 5