Film Review: Witch’s Brew (2011)


SYNOPSIS:

When two micro-brewers screw over the town witch, she curses their latest batch of beer. From that point on, everyone who drinks it suffers a gruesome ironic death.

REVIEW:

Any movie that opens with the death of a child is an instant attention grabber. When said child’s flesh ripples and boils with good practical special effects before bursting into flames and, more importantly, there is no cop out cut away, you know you’re in for a good time. And that’s just what Witch’s Brew is: a sweet treat for horror junkies lovingly crafted by fellow fans of the genre.

That opening scene sets the tone of the film. While the graphic death of a child could be disturbing, Witch’s Brew does it with a tongue placed firmly in cheek. It’s a horror-comedy, but rather than relying on funny dialogue, the majority of the humor comes as a result of the over-the-top deaths from which the characters suffer.

When Jeff Ducker (Chris Magorian) and Preston Oakley (Gary-Kayi Fletcher), a pair of friends who run their own micro-brewery, accidentally run over a black cat that attempts to cross their paths, they go to the owners home with the best of intentions. Unfortunately for them, the animal belonged to a coven of witches, and the eldest witch, Brynn (Helenmary Ball), doesn’t take kindly to the boys’ peace offering of beer. She curses their freshly brewed batch of Slacker Lager, proclaiming “After you drink that beer, liver damage is going to be the least of your problems!”

The superstitious Jeff wants nothing to do with the supposedly cursed ale, but Preston insists that they sell it as planned. They deliver cases to local bars, liquor stores, friends and more. As the characters drink the alcohol, they drop like flies after suffering awful deaths. Witch’s Brew is something like a (slightly) less bizarre version of Street Trash, although it’s just as fun on most accounts.

I don’t want to spoil any of the many death scenes, but I will say that they are equal parts amusing and grotesque. The characters don’t just drop dead; they each go in their own unique way, usually related to a personality quirk. For example, the first victim of the cursed beer is Sargent Walker, a wheelchair-bound homeless man whose paraplegic legs kick himself to death.

The film could be used as a strong argument against using CGI over practical effects on a small production. Special effects makeup artists Kaleigh Brown and Jason M. Koch and crew member John Laveck had their work cut out for them, as the death scenes are the focal point of the picture. In particular, the second act of the film essentially acts as a showcase for their creations. Their hard work paid off; the effects are nothing short of excellent for a film of this budget.

In fact, the entire production looks great for a little independent effort. It’s well shot, well lit, well edited and well directed. The competent technical aspects give the film the illusion that it was made for a higher budget. Writer/director Chris LaMartina has followed up his slasher throwback President’s Day with another impressive feature. Indie filmmakers take note: Witch’s Brew is low budget horror filmmaking done right.

Witch’s Brew (2011)

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