The UHF of the film world.
Latest news

Jason Widgington [Celluloid 10.23.19] horror

With a misleading trailer, a cool poster, and a title that capitalizes on the recent spate of witchcraft-associated horror hits but whose connection to the actual film is tenuous at best, many viewers are bound to be disappointed by Witches in the Woods, the latest from writer Christopher Borrelli (The Vatican Tapes) and director Jordan Barker (Torment).

I admittedly came away a little disillusioned myself, but upon further reflection I concluded that Witches in the Woods is a solid – albeit flawed – horror flick about deteriorating group dynamics when faced with the rising tension of being stranded in the cold and snowy wilderness.

A group of college students heading out to the wooded hills of Massachusetts for a weekend of skiing, snowboarding, and partying find themselves stranded when their truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere and they are forced to contend with the elements, their own insecurities and issues, and the possible possession of one of their own by the spirit of a vengeful witch who was hanged in the area back during the mass hysteria of the late 17th century.

One of the group, Alison (Sasha Clements), really doesn't want to be on this trip and we learn early on that it's because she was the victim of some kind of an assault involving members of the football team - a few of whom are on the trip as well – and her accusations resulted in many players being suspended. There's also a love triangle between Jill (Hannah Kasulka, who was so good in the first season of The Exorcist TV series) and two of the football players on the trip (Craig Arnold and Corbin Bleu).

There are some interesting dynamics to explore there, and the actors are more than fine in their roles, but as is common in movies with an ensemble cast and too much going on, the characters feel a bit underdeveloped and it's difficult to care about what happens to any of them. The fun begins, though, when Alison falls into some kind of trance and is seemingly possessed by the spirit of a wrongly persecuted witch intent on exacting revenge on anyone within reach. That, combined with the ever-dropping temperature in the woods, causes the rest of the group to panic and make some questionable decisions while trying to figure a way out of their situation. The ensuing kills are creative and unabashedly bloody with just the right amount of jump scares, and the dark and snowy woods feel appropriately claustrophobic.

While the witch/possession angle doesn't exactly feel tacked-on, it could have been put to better use if the idea had been fleshed out more. There's something to be said for trusting your audience to draw its own conclusions, but you do sometimes have to gently nudge them in certain directions. Viewers expecting a full-on possession story may end up feeling as stranded as the characters, but Witches in the Woods still provides enough scares, gore, and tension to keep horror fans interested for its 90-minute runtime.

Recommended Release: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

You might also like

Leave a comment