The Woman in the Wall 2023 / This Gothic thriller about abusive Catholic centers in Ireland is terrifying in more ways than one


On the surface, The Woman in the Wall is immediately scary. It’s riddled with jumpscares, shrieks, haunting Latin songs, blood-hued flashbacks, and, of course, incessant Catholic and Gothic imagery. But while it’s effective as a horror, it’s more meaningful as a tribute to the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, that is, Catholic convents where nuns took care of “wayward women,” which ranged from teen girls who’ve engaged in premarital sex to prostitutes. They’re often abused and forced to work long hours, and in the case of some pregnant women, their babies were taken away from them as punishment for their sins. That’s what happened all those years ago to Lorna (Ruth Wilson), who’s never learned how to cope with her loss and trauma in the years since the laundries were banned in ‘96. She becomes the main suspect in the case of a murdered priest, and the more we learn about it, the more we question Lorna’s memories and recollections. Is she capable of this brutality? Where is her baby? And what does the detective, played ably by Daryl McCormack, have to do with all this? The show can seem too much at first, but it weaves all these questions and prickly themes deftly by the end.

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