A small community lives in fear of the Satanic evil that festers within the dark forests that surround their small village. One night, a love-struck villager ventures into the oppressive woods in search of forbidden magic and ancient rites. To aid them, the townsfolk enlist the aid of William Thatcher Blake, a witch hunter whose arrival stirs a cauldron of terror that threatens to engulf them all in a bloody pit of horror!
Astoundingly, an entire year of pre production went into making this 18 minute long short film, with the initial story being written in 2011. The amount of effort that went into the film was definitely time well spent as it manages to look very professional. It is notoriously hard to shoot at night, especially on location, so for the sharp focus of the camera to be maintained throughout is impressive. The music is good, the camerawork is great and this is coupled by a nicely simplistic storyline – and I mean this in the sense that it is not necessary to create an overly complicated plot when making a short film. Short and snappy is always best, and Witchfinder delivered this excellently.
Witchfinder takes audiences back to the time of the Salem Witch Trials when fear was rife amongst the peasants. Indeed, it is one of the oldest ‘fears’ of humankind and so this is a good basis for a horror film. The story begins quite traditionally with the accusation and execution of a woman for being a witch, but whilst tied to the stake she makes the claim that she will seek revenge on the man responsible, specifically targeting his family.
One thing that I have to applaud Witchfinder on is the work that went into the authentic ‘period’ aspect of the film, as this creates extra work and problems which a lot of movies avoid. The costumes were all made from scratch and the village chosen to shoot in had a great array of suitable old locations to use. The director said that he got permission to turn the outside street lights off during the night scenes, to simulate an isolated cabin in the woods. However, as the house was actually right next to a main road, it was tricky to get through lines of dialogue without a car interrupting them. The filmmaker’s kept pursuing the silence they were after and the final result is a flawless end product.
I personally thought that the acting was a little wooden at times and there was a moment when white face paint (attempting to create the effect of death) on the little girl was so obvious and sloppily done that it seemed incongruent with the meticulous detail that went into the rest of the film. Witchfinder didn’t really have any big scares as such, but focused instead on creating a lingering fear and sense of unease. This did work really well for it and is probably a realistic atmosphere of the time. Plus, the ending genuinely had a strong element of fear about it, despite only being introduced to the characters a few seconds previously. It’s always good to end the film on the best bit!
Witchfinder (short film) (2013)