While a box office hit in North Africa, Dachra is a frustrating experience that fails to live up to the hype, suffering from a muddled atmosphere and a lack of complexity that strangles a film that at time promises a fresh cultural perspective of folk horror.  

The film centres around a group of students looking to complete a film project by investigating reports of a mysterious woman locked in an institute whom is rumoured to be a witch. However, meeting this woman is just the beginning of a journey that will lead them into the depths of a lost community whom practice the most ghastly of rituals. It’s clear very early in proceedings that Dachra suffers from something of a cliché epidemic. Of course, cliché and tropes can be a part of the pleasure of genre cinema when used tactfully or playfully, but Dachra seems to attempt to throw as many indie horror staples at the audience to the point of banality. Filmmakers investigating the supernatural? Check. Trip to an institute with a hidden patient in chains? Check. Our intrepid heroes car breaks down and are left to wander lost in the woods? Check hat trick! I could truly breakdown every sequence of the film and see a gigantic and obvious trope. While of course some of these are crucial to the structure of the film and not all of them are unsuccessful (particularly late in the film when the true horrors begin to unravel), but the combination of so many obvious clichés make the film feel tired and uninspiring; it’s potential surprises end up feeling forced and obvious, with the inevitability of certain narrative developments undermining any hopes of genuine enthusiasm.

Indeed, the chronic misappropriating of cliché as a tactic channels into the most painful problem within the entire film: Quite simply, none of the central characters are remotely likable. From the very start, they bicker, moan and generally snipe at each other with such enthusiastic venom; it’s almost impossible to want them to make it through the film unscathed. Of course, slasher cinema has been built on creating underdeveloped cannon fodder, but Dachra’s characters aren’t crafted in the same knowing fashion as those almost lovingly vacuous victims…this is just aggravating character work on a grand scale, and only serves to completely frustrate the viewer rather than build an emphatic relationship with the characters where the stakes of their survival actually matter.  

The film’s visuals are by far it’s most successful and consistent aspect. From the opening images, an atmosphere filthy with earthy, smoky hues and a blend of realism and almost fantasy aspects that at its best creates a feeling of unease behind every frame, as the viewer is left to wonder on whether they are being deceived by the environment as much as the characters. In the conclusion, this texture of raw darkness explodes into an even more nightmarish palette where the mystery gives way to relentless horror, something that powers Dachra to a heart pounding (if unfortunately obvious) conclusion. It’s just such a shame a conclusion as powerfully intense only arises for the last few minutes after a dour grind of a the previous hour and a half where the audience plays such a passive role for the most part. However, the conclusion does definitely shows a taste for extreme horror that hopefully can be extended further by director Abdelhamid Bouchnak in the future.

Dachra holds an interesting premise, full of dark texture, but ultimately undermined by poor character work and pacing that only comes to life far too late to satisfy a hunger already long dead.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Dachra
2.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul250190@gmail.com