'House of the Dragon' star leads this disturbing movie with 100% Rotten Tomatoes score — and it finally has a release date

Matt Smith in "Starve Acre" (2023)
(Image credit: BBC Film)

I’ve read many horror books in my time, and few have managed to get under my skin like “Starve Acre” did. It was something I randomly picked up on a whim, considering it was shorter than most standard novels and the blurb sounded quite disturbing when I gave it a quick read. But what I didn’t expect was to finish it in just one day, or for it to end up being one of my favorite books ever. Now here we are with an adaptation that looks extremely promising. 

House of the Dragon” star Matt Smith will bring this book to life on the big screen. From the trailer alone, this highly anticipated horror seems to deliver a spine-chilling experience like no other. Set amongst the haunting and atmospheric landscapes of Yorkshire, the movie unfolds against a backdrop steeped in local folklore and dark history.

“Starve Acre” actually premiered at the London Film Festival back in October 2023, and after a few months of waiting, they finally announced a theatrical release date. Before I even knew about the perfect Rotten Tomatoes score though, I had high hopes for this movie, and it’s definitely up there with other thrilling releases like “Alien: Romulus” and “A Quiet Place: Day One”. 

But is “Starve Acre” worth watching when it gets released next month? Let’s delve deeper into the narrative that completely consumed me. 

What is 'Starve Acre' about?

Starve Acre - Official Trailer - YouTube Starve Acre - Official Trailer - YouTube
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When searching for the movie’s synopsis online, you probably won’t find much other than the brief description: “An idyllic rural family life of a couple is thrown into turmoil when their son starts acting out of character.” So, I’m here to expand on the book's narrative to give you an idea of what this haunting tale is about (and to help you determine whether it’s something worth watching). 

"Starve Acre" is a horror story set in the Yorkshire countryside, revolving around the unsettling experiences of a couple, Richard (Matt Smith) and Juliette Willoughby (Morfydd Clark). After the tragic death of their young son, they move to Richard's family home, Starve Acre. As Juliette becomes increasingly obsessed with spiritualism, attempting to contact their deceased son, Richard digs into the local legends and unearths sinister secrets about the land's past.

Having read the novel (and finishing it within one day), I can easily label it as one of my favorite horror books ever. This is because it explores themes of grief, loss, and the supernatural, while showing the impact of personal tragedy on a couple's relationship. Everything about it felt so chilling, but it also revealed how grief can tear people apart, no matter how strong they might appear.

'Starve Acre' takes folk horror to a whole new level

The novel is deeply rooted in the myths and legends of the Yorkshire countryside. Anything associated with folklore will always be frightening, but “Starve Acre” manages to go beyond stereotypical horror tropes by combining grief with the dark aspects of nature and the supernatural. All of these elements blend together perfectly to create a sense of dread, and it’s something I instantly felt when reading every page. 

What stands out about this story though is the depiction of grief and how it impacts the main characters — Richard and Juliette. For example, overwhelmed by her loss, Juliette becomes consumed with the desire to contact her son, turning to spiritualism in her desperation. Her obsession leads her to increasingly irrational and dangerous behaviors. 

Richard, on the other hand, copes with his grief by immersing himself in the history and folklore of Starve Acre. He becomes fixated on uncovering the secrets of the land, believing that understanding its dark past might provide answers or solace. 

Every twist and turn in the book had me holding my breath, and the ending page alone sent chills down my spine. It’s a beautiful but genuinely disturbing story that adheres to the conventions of folk horror while pushing the boundaries of the genre, creating a richly layered and deeply unsettling story. I'm confident that the movie will convey grief both visually and emotionally, and in the most disturbing way possible. 

What critics said about this unsettling horror

Erin Richards and Morfydd Clark in "Starve Acre" (2023)

(Image credit: BBC Film)

“Starve Acre” has a perfect score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s important to note that’s only from seven reviews. Once it gets released in theaters, this rating could change, but the certified fresh appeal proves that it’s a quality movie with a capable and talented cast.

Anton Bitel from Sight & Sound said: “This 1970s-set folk horror, unnervingly scored by Matthew Herbert, unearths something primeval and toxic at the very roots of a once, and perhaps again, happy family.” Meanwhile, Arts Fuse’s Peg Aloi commented on the supernatural themes: “Starve Acre is a satisfying addition to the growing crop of English folk horror narratives that venture past the edges of magic realism, entering into a wild realm that lies just beyond our waking vision.”

While the movie isn’t out yet in theaters, I can’t help but agree with these opinions based on my knowledge of the book. The casting, narrative, and feel of the movie seem to stay true to the “Starve Acre” novel, so I’m not surprised this adaptation has done so well. 

Film Threat’s Perry Norton stated simply: “This is a fantastically enigmatic horror film done beautifully well.” And that should be enough to convince anyone to watch it (not me though, I was on board as soon as the news came out). 

Experience 'Starve Acre' when it lands in theaters

I would encourage anyone to watch “Starve Acre” when it gets released in theaters. Even if you aren’t a horror fan or have never read the book, it’s a genuinely compelling narrative that will grab you and never let go. Reading the story was already engaging enough for me, but seeing it unfold on the big screen could heighten the emotional impact, allowing us to share in the escalating tension and unexpected twists.

Hate waiting for new releases? Check out the best summer horror movies currently streaming on Netflix, Prime Video and more. You can also learn why the trailer for an upcoming vampire horror has made it one of my most anticipated movies of the year.

“Starve Acre” hits theaters in the U.S. on July 26 and in the U.K. on September 6.

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Alix Blackburn
Staff Writer, Streaming

Alix is a Streaming Writer at Tom’s Guide, which basically means watching the best movies and TV shows and then writing about them. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for Screen Rant and Bough Digital, both of which sparked her interest in the entertainment industry. When she’s not writing about the latest movies and TV shows, she’s either playing horror video games on her PC or working on her first novel.