Starve Acre to be released by BFI Distribution in UK and Irish cinemas on 6 September

Starring Matt Smith and Morfydd Clark, Starve Acre is an unsettling British folk horror set in rural Yorkshire in the 1970s.

Owen (Arthur Shaw), Richard (Matt Smith) and Juliette Willoughby (Morfydd Clark) in Starve Acre (2023)Photo by Chris Harris

Starve Acre, an unsettling British folk horror written and directed by BAFTA nominee Daniel Kokotajlo (Apostasy), starring Matt Smith (House of the Dragon, Last Night in Soho, Doctor Who) and Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, The Personal History of David Copperfield) will be released by BFI Distribution in UK and Irish cinemas on 6 September 2024. A House Production, based on the award-winning 2019 novel Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley and with original music by Matthew Herbert (The Wonder, Disobedience), the film had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival 2023.

To accompany the release, Daniel Kokotajlo has programmed a BFI Southbank and BFI Player season of films and television programmes that have inspired and influenced him: Roots, Rituals and Phantasmagoria, which will also include special events, will run from 1 September. A BFI Player, BFI Blu-ray and digital release of Starve Acre will follow on 21 October.

Daniel Kokotajlo’s second feature film follows his debut Apostasy (2017), about a young mother’s struggle to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was nominated for six BIFAs along with a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut and won the BFI London Film Festival IWC Bursary for Outstanding First Feature in 2019. Kokotajlo has previously been selected as both a Screen International Star of Tomorrow (2015) and a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit (2018).

Set in rural Yorkshire in the 1970s, the plot sees Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s seemingly idyllic family life thrown into turmoil when their young son Owen starts acting out of character. A sudden, tragic event brings grief and drives a wedge between the once happy couple. At Starve Acre, their remote family home, academic archaeologist Richard buries himself in exploring a folkloric myth that the ancient oak tree that once stood on their land is imbued with phenomenal powers. While Juliette turns to the local community to find some kind of peace, Richard obsessively digs deeper. An unexpected discovery soon occupies the couple’s attention and dark and sinister forces, unwittingly allowed into their home, offer a disturbing possibility of reconnection between them.

Director Daniel Kokotajlo says: “I’m a sucker for films that put a spell on you with their attitudes and strange sensibilities. English folk tales like Starve Acre give you an opportunity to do that. It’s not just horror; it ends up in a weird, off-kilter place. It can be uncomfortably quiet and sensitive, then suddenly it slaps you in your face with its oddballness. That was the aim of this film: to create a mood of nervousness. Making an audience nervous results in a whole range of reactions: tears, screams or giggles. It’s my idea of cathartic fun. Starve Acre also taps into a timeless fear that feels more relevant than ever: the idea that returning home, to nature, and regressing into childhood, is a big mistake. The film removes the nostalgic, rose-tinted glasses, and shows us that there are dark things, long-buried superstitions, awaiting our return.”

Access Entertainment, BBC Film and BFI present A House Production, produced by Tessa Ross, Juliette Howell and Emma Duffy. The film was developed with BBC Film and is funded by Access Entertainment together with BBC Film and the BFI, awarding National Lottery funding. Cornerstone is handling worldwide sales.