Sometimes a good story can’t hide budget restraints. The Witch in the Window – movie review

 

Andy Mitton’s YellowBrickRoad (2010) is a super low-budget horror flick that I honestly consider to be vastly underrated. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, give it a chance, even though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

8 years after that movie, Mitton made The Witch in the Window, another very low-budget, indie horror flick about father and son (Simon and Finn) going to rural Vermont to flip an old farmhouse. There, however, they encounter the evil spirit of the previous owner, Lydia; a spirit that gets stronger with every repair they make.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…


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A struggling dad in The Witch in the Window

This movie, which is a Shudder exclusive, is very short (with its 77-minute runtime) but still manages to be quite dull and uneventful. The main focus of the story is on the father-son relationship, not as much on ‘the witch’, and this is a potentially interesting approach. However, the amateur and shaky acting defies the purpose, making most of the scenes appear clumsy and ineffective.

Another problem with The Witch in the Window revolves around the production values: as a matter of fact, I do enjoy low-budget indie horror flicks (a la the aforementioned YellowBrickRoad, Ruin Me, Cut Shoot Kill and the slashers from the 80s), but here the directing really suffers from the lack of funds, making most of the shots look cheap and amateur. The biggest issue in terms of production values centres on the editing: you can really tell the filmmakers didn’t have the possibility to show anything scary on screen, thus they cut away abruptly every time there’s supposed to be a ‘big scary’ scene.

The look and feel of the film, however, is helped by the beautiful rural and wild locations, which make tolerable a cinematography that would otherwise look bland and average.

As I said before, the idea of focusing on the family relationships – with an absent father trying to make up for his son and a constantly afraid mother – has potential, and I most definitely appreciate Mitton’s effort to explore this theme. Nonetheless, when the dialogue feels undeniably scripted and the acting appears wooden, the message or the meaning of the story loses its impact.

Yet, the story itself isn’t very well written: there are some plot holes that can’t really be justified. I don’t want to go into them right now, as I always try to keep my reviews spoiler-free, but maybe the short runtime didn’t leave enough room for explanation and attempts at telling a coherent and sensical story.

Nonetheless, The Witch in the Window is far from the worst horror flicks I’ve seen this year, as conceptually the movie is interesting and even in regard to its faulty presentation there are features to be appreciated.

Other than the few ones I’ve already mentioned, the last 20 or so minutes of the film work better than the rest of the runtime, to the ability to build up genuine tension without overreliance on horror tropes. It’s more of a mind-game that the entity plays with the main characters of this flick as non-consensual players.

Most of the scenes in the third act have an impact on the audience due to their implications and the unpredictable way in which they’re displayed.

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Somebody is not who’s supposed to be in this scene from The Witch in the Window

It’s also worth praising the fact that, despite the budget restraints and the somewhat below average acting, a few sequences scattered throughout the movie are able to create a dreadful feel that doesn’t just rely on the witch being on screen and, instead, comes from the doubts about what’s real and what’s just a trick of the imagination (or of the witch).

Overall, I was disappointed by The Witch in the Window and I really wish this film could benefit from a bigger budget, since the concept at its core is intriguing and could have endless opportunities of development. If you’re curious, you could still give it a watch, I just wouldn’t recommend it.

The Witch in the Window                 4/10

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