A group of friends head off for a weekend trip. However, when the crash and find themselves stranded. However, as the temperature plummets, the group begin to fall apart, while outside, there might be something in the woods…
The idea of a group of people stranded, while something haunts or attacks them isn’t new. There’s an endless list of films that have a similar set up. The question then becomes, what do you do with the premise? It’s a point I’ve made made many times in the past, that a film doesn’t need to be truly original, so long as you have characters you care about, makes the best use it can of the premise and, in the case of a horror film, it is scary.
In the case of Witches In The Woods, it tries too hard in one way and not enough in the other.
The film is written by Christopher Borrelli. It has an opening you expect for a film of this type, as it introduces the characters and their dynamics. There’s a subplot about a sex tape that one of the women was unaware she was in (the full context of the tape is never really gone into), while the lead character, Jill, has begun seeing Phillip, while trying to end her relationship with her boyfriend, both of whom are on the trip. How those strands will play into the story (and you know they will) do offer some tension, even if you can see how they will twist as the story progresses.
Another problem is Jill as a character. Now, to be clear, she is not a ‘Mary Sue’ type (I personally hate that phrase by the way), but she is the one who is made too knowledgeable, in that most of the issues that happen, she is the one to deal with them. Considering the number of other characters in the vehicle, it seems strange to make the one character deal with everything. Perhaps they were just trying to show how resolute Jill is, but her character gets more focus than the others which I do think unbalances the film slightly in that regard.
The film is directed by Jordan Barker and I think is at its best when it focuses on the group. Where I think it is let down, is that the film is never scary enough. At the beginning there is talk about witches, or alleged witches being put on trial (similar to the events in Salem). Obviously with a title like Witches In The Woods, you would expect that this would play into the story in some ways, but in truth it really doesn’t. Allison, the girl involved with the sex tape, seems to be the one who gets influenced or taken over by whatever is in the woods, yet what she does, you could argue could have happened without the witch aspect.
In fact, I’d go further. Strip out the horror elements and you could have an interesting drama or thriller, where tensions over relationships and the tape could have caused a similar story to the one we get.
The cast aren’t bad. Hannah Kasulka plays Jill and is very good in the lead role, even if I had issues with her character. The others in the main cast, Alexander De Jordy, Sasha Clements, Corbin Bleu, Craig Arnold, Humberly Gonzalez and Kyle Mac are not bad either.
The setting is suitably chilling, which does help with the tension. But I think the ending had potential to a more unsettling one. I don’t know if the film uses the ending as written or if it changed, but for a moment, it looked like it might take a turn, which I actually think would have helped the film.
I don’t think Witches In The Woods is a bad film. There is enough there to make it watchable. But as a horror film, I don’t think it worked. But as a look at stranded characters under pressure, I do think it works much better.
Rating: **1/2 out of 5