Witch review | An unfocused but ambitious folk horror

witch review
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A young couple’s lives are upended by accusations of witchcraft in Craig Hinde and Marc Zammit’s horror. Here’s our Witch review. 

The first thing Witch, a folk horror by Craig Hinde and Marc Zammit, has to contend with is the comparisons to Robert Eggers’ superb debut feature The Witch (or The VVItch). Both films share not just a similar title, but a similar setting, and arguably Witch aims for a similar mood as the oppressively haunting The Witch. 

Their narratives differ quite a bit, though. While both feature a witch, Witch adds another element which we won’t spoil here – a little more on that shortly. 

Witch begins with an atmospheric scene that depicts something that looks almost like an exorcism. Two women are sat in the middle of the room as an older man reads rites from faded pieces of parchment. 

The action quickly jumps four days back to give us some context to the scene. William and Twyla live a simple, peaceful life in a small village in England. Suddenly, Twyla is accused of being a witch and the two race against time to prove her innocence. 

witch johanna
Credit: 101 Films

Add to the mix an old man, who suddenly appears and seems keen on helping William and Twyla, a righteous judge on a power trip and a cruel sheriff, and there’s more than enough going on in Witch. But, as mentioned before, the film takes a strange turn about halfway. 

Again, we won’t spoil the details here, but it’s a bold move. On one hand, such boldness is admirable and impressive, especially since Witch is such a small production. On the other, it doesn’t quite work, like most things in the film. 

Hinde and Zammit seem to have a rudimentary understanding of how to create a moody atmosphere: set most scenes after nightfall, insert some fog, create a dynamic, symmetrical frame every now and then and add some ethereal, angelic singing in the background. Yet, the terror feels artificial and forced. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t some genuinely beautiful and intriguing scenes. Mims Burton plays Johanna, a woman also accused of witchcraft, whom we first meet at night, carrying her parents’ severed heads. Hinde and Zammit seem much more comfortable filming Johanna and Burton brings a deranged, tragic quality to her character. Equally, the film does have some beautiful visuals and the production design is grand. 

The directors introduce a lot of fascinating themes, but there’s too many of them and none of them get the attention they deserve. Characters are thinly written and the performances lack nuance, even if actors Ryan Spong and Sarah Alexandra Marks give it their all. 

The film ultimately lost me. I never felt scared nor was I truly invested in the narrative or the characters. I applaud the sheer courage of Hinde and Zammit to make such big leaps with their first feature, but this one needed a little more focus. 

Witch is available digitally now. 

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