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DACHRA (2018)

Directed and written by Abdelhamid Bouchnak.
Starring Yassmine Dimassi, Hela Ayed, Aziz Jebali, Bilel Slatnia, Bahri Rahali, Hedi Mejri, Rachid Bougheriou, Nawres Idanani, Amira Ben Said, Soumaya Bouallegui

Three student filmmakers—Yasmin (Yassmine Dimassi), Walid (Aziz Jebali) and Bilel (Bilel Slatnia) take an assignment to investigate a cold case about a mutilated woman and its ties to witchcraft in a small village called Dachra in Tunisia. They are met with smiles in the village, but soon the three students find themselves trapped in the town with all kinds of strange and diabolical things occurring in the periphery and inching closer.

DACHRA is a solid paranormal investigation style story. It isn’t found footage, but it has all of the setup to be one as the students are always filming the local customs and atmosphere of the small town. Filmmaker Abdelhamid Bouchnak does a great job of creating a dank, destitute, and otherworldly atmosphere for these city students to feel completely out of place in. The forests are clouded with thick fog and the buildings are run down and rotted. Bouchnak does a good job of zooming in close to show the wrinkles on the faces of the weary people of Dachra, as well as the urban decay that has occurred in this impoverished place. It makes for a great setting for a horror movie.

And there is a solid story being told filled with morbid details and twisted surprises. I liked a lot of the broad strokes of DACHRA—its unexpected twists and dark secrets mapping out a truly depraved and haunting story. But looking closer, and there are a few problems I encountered with DACHRA that I couldn’t ignore.

The acting works in DACHRA for the most part. All of the actors do their thing decently, though the male students act particularly buffoonish, almost to a comedic level. My main issue was with the lead Yassmine Dimassi, who plays Yasmin. Not only is her voice extremely shrill, but she is also constantly annoyed, angry, pissed, or all three at the other two guys—constantly yelling and berating them. Yes, they are kind of moronic, but, relatively good natured. Yasmin doesn’t seem to want to be on this trip, and is not afraid to complain about everything. This makes her extremely hard to like and with Yasmin’s fate so closely tied to the story, it made it hard for me to have investment in her plight. When the lead character is unlikable, it ultimately hurts your story and that is the main issue I had with DACHRA all the way through.

While it may be a horror trope, there are way too many instances when something creepy or weird happens and none of the three leads communicate it to one another. One of the students finds a video from the night before of someone filming the three of them while sleeping and instead of freaking out, he doesn’t tell anyone and seems to forget about it. Another notices hooded people lurking outside of their window, but when they disappear, she says nothing to the group. It’s basically done to keep the plot from moving forward so that more creepy things can compound, but it isn’t really how people would react in that situation.

Another thing is that there’s a major revelation in the story that occurs when Yasmin reads a journal she has been in possession of the whole time and finally gets to a specific passage at the exact right time to provide crucial information about the situation the three students are in. It feels way too convenient and what I consider to be lazy writing that this info is revealed in such a way coincidentally at the exact moment they need it.

There are some seriously creepy DON’T LOOK NOW vibes in the latter portions of DACHRA as Yasmin follows a red coated child deep into the ruins of this forgotten city. Once some of the mystery is taken away, things do get very unusual and the film ends on a downright vague note where you are only given a glimpse of the fate of our intrepid reporters. Still, DACHRA achieves some level of terror and a level of high tension from beginning to end. The end leaves things sort of up to interpretation, so some will feel the leadup doesn’t match the revelation in the final moments. All in all, this is a mixed bag style film. The quality of filmmaking is undeniably good and the mystique is definitely potent and thick. But there are dangling plot threads all over the place by the time the credits roll and paired with a protagonist who spends 90% of the movie with an annoyed look on her face, it makes the whole thing rough to fully recommend.

Check out the trailer here!!