How long has it been since there has been a really good film in the “teen witch” subgenre? Thinking back on it, there aren’t really a lot of films to help make that decision so the answer may be a simple “It’s been a while”. Perhaps that’s what writers Kyle Rankin and Larry Blamire thought when they sat down to pen their upcoming film, The Witch Files. As if they needed to add a little spice into the very small “teen witch” subgenre, they injected a “found footage” aspect to their story. Sounds interesting, yeah?
High schooler, Claire, has aspirations of becoming a nationally known newscaster. As someone who is constantly on the hunt for a story to publish in the high school paper, she always has a camera in tow. The film opens on her interviewing a group of girls from different cliques about why they’ve found themselves in deetention. Brooke, the “rich bitch”, is in for mouthing off at a teacher. MJ, the lovelorn teenager, is in for making out with her boyfriend in the hallway. Greta, the athlete, is in for ditching AP Chem. Then there’s Jules, the goth new girl, who’s in for laying out a perv who tried to grope her. One hour of detention seems to have bonded these girls, and within the first 5 minutes of the film, we are shown that Jules has some of witchy power. She’s not even secretive about it as she bets she can get them all out of detention. She succeeds by willing the the fire alarm at the school to go off. Detention, no more!
“[…] The Witch Files is pleasantly surprising. Although molded from your usual horror stereotypes, the girls don’t settle into them.”
Seems a little off that she’d reveal such power to such a hodge podge group of people…or does it? The girls are instantly intrigued by Jules‘ showcase, and she tells them that they can all have this sort of power if they meet her where their town used to persecute witches back in the day. Some are in, some are skeptical, but they all end up meeting at midnight, to partake in a ritual that will guarantee them powers of their own.
The girls get their powers, and they abuse their powers. The more they abuse their powers, the more their bodies begin to revolt against them. Brooke‘s hearing fails her. Claire begins losing her vision. Greta gets arthritis. MJ‘s jaw begins to deteriorate. Jules begins to have symptoms of menopause, and she gets attacked by an unseen force. Who is draining the life from the newly found coven? What attacked Jules? How does the found footage aspect even begin to work in a situation like this?
The first hour or so of The Witch Files is pleasantly surprising. Although molded from your usual horror stereotypes, the girls don’t settle into them. They keep remnants of their given stereotype, but they each have their own distinguishable personality. The dialogue is fun and witty, and there are times when smart decisions are made. But then comes the hour mark which starts with a battle between two of the witches who think the other is out to get them.
The battle is a little weak unfortunately. Given the indie budget of the film though, some of the special effects applied were executed very well. It isn’t the special effects that caused the laughs. It’s when one of the girls whacks another over the head with what looks like something hard and sturdy, and instantly, the girl who was hit flatly and dully states, “Are you trying to put me in the hospital too?” That one moment lost me. I was no longer down for the happenings onscreen. Instead, I begin to be pulled out of the film. It’s almost as if the final act of the film was rushed in almost every aspect which almost takes away from a really enjoyable first hour.
The found footage aspect of The Witch Files was handled pretty well for the first two-thirds of the film. It didn’t seem contrived for journalist-to-be Claire to have her camera out at all times. There’s even a quip in the film where she tells another of the coven to purchase a camera because it’s hard to be the only person handling one. A few other quips are made throughout the first hour of the film alluding to the overuse of having a camera available, but then we get to the battle mentioned before, and it becomes a distraction.
“The Witch Files conjured up small feels of The Craft‘s mythology along with Buffy‘s comrade and Mean Girls‘ wit.”
Riding on a broomstick hundreds of feet in the air on the same broom as your friend on the way to destroy the enemy and save the guy of your dreams? Let’s whip out the camera. Just witnessed a woman get brutally hit by a car, and then make a comment about how waiting around for the cops is stupid because you have to go save your friends? Keep the camera out, but run! In the hospital after being attacked by an invisible force, yet you’re the one causing all of the ruckus, and you’re making threats to others? Leave a camera recording over in the corner. The silliness that occurs doesn’t ruin the film, but it definitely succeeds in lowering the expectations that had risen.
The Witch Files conjured up small feels of The Craft‘s mythology along with Buffy‘s comrade and Mean Girls‘ wit. Definitely not a bad combo but unfortunately a little far off from becoming a great entry in teen witch subgenre.
Perhaps you’ll have a different take when the film hits DVD and digital platforms this Tuesday, October 9th. Let us know what you thought on Twitter, the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook, or on Reddit.