I’m not and I don’t think I’ve ever been a very big fan of movies about witches. I just don’t usually find them very interesting. In fact, as much as I love American Horror Story, I find myself completely bored by this season (Coven). Paranormal Activity finds itself further and further exploring the witch mythology. The only witch movie I think I ever liked was The Craft, and that wasn’t for the witchcraft aspect. Maybe it’s just personal preference. Maybe I just haven’t run across a good witch movie.
Maybe I just need to be exposed to more movies like Daredevil Films’ Witchfinder. This extraordinary short film just finished the festival circuit and can currently be seen on www.popcornhorror.com. The film won the Best Narrative Film Award at the Mosaic Film Festival in Rockford, IL.
Witchfinder teleports us back to colonial times. A young man visits the town witch (Abigail Prynn, played by Valerie Meachum) in a drunken stupor hoping that she may work her magic on a woman he longs for. While casting her spell, she is interrupted by William Blake (Dave Juehring). Blake may be a local pastor, but he serves as the town’s witch judge/jury/executioner. He arrests both Abigail and the drunk, and he executes them for practicing witchcraft (Abigail’s death is superb in both imagination and brutality.). But before Abigail dies, she tells Blake that “the blood of your family will restore the life you now rob from me!”
A triumphant Blake returns home to his wife and young daughter. The sun sets, and the family goes to bed. There is a loud bang from the front door, and…you have to watch.
The film’s director, Colin Clarke, understands how to tell a story effectively. He doesn’t drown us in backstory in the first part of the film, and he just ramps up the creep factor in the second half. Honestly, both halves of the movie could stand on their own. The film is that strong. The music is haunting, and very reminiscent of the piano strikes from Halloween. Clarke plays with the shadows of a movie that takes place in a time when electricity cannot bring them to light.
Valerie Meachum makes a terrific transformation from mysterious to downright scary. The scene in the hallway has to be one of the best horror shots I have ever seen (especially since I knew what was going to happen). The laugh comes from everywhere, and when she appears, I jumped out of my seat. There were times that I felt Dave Juehring was a bit forced in his dialogue, but he works well as a scared Blake trying to figure out what’s happening.
Although Abigail’s death is pretty brutal, this is not a gory film at all. I loved the mask (especially as I am terrified of things going in my eye), and I loved that it left me with imagining the gore instead of seeing it. After I got over the eye thing, I realized that she was choking on her own blood inside of it and I was even more mortified.
Witchfinder is definitely worth a look. If you aren’t into witch movies (like me), don’t worry. This isn’t one. It’s well planned horror.