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Film Review: Wicked Witches (2018)

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SYNOPSIS:

After being thrown out of his home by his wife for being promiscuous, Mark finds himself back at Dumpling Farm, a place of youthful memories and parties, but things aren’t quite right. His old buddy Ian, who has never left the place, is possessed by a group of demonic, flesh-eating Witches. Using Ian and his farm, these beautiful Witches honey trap Mark and his friends to consume their souls.

REVIEW:

An unfaithful guy, Mark, gets kicked out of his marriage and home. Hmm. Seems dodgy, but we’ll assume this guy has a great story to tell as the film makes THE END OF A RELATIONSHIP visually important. At least, we know the filmmakers understand the basic language of cinema as Mark speeds away from his wedding ring in his beat-up car.

We also know the film crew had a drone that they are very fond of using. In fact, if you get motion sick, there will be a couple of shots that might have you wishing for medication. The drone documents Mark’s long drive to a location out in the countryside with long shots, tracking shots, shots hovering just behind the car, overhead shots, etc.

Once in the middle of nowhere known to humankind, Mark contacts his old mate Ian who lives at Dumpling Farm. Apparently, Ian has rooms to rent. I guess I missed that part in the newspaper Mark is shown reading as there is a message in the classified ads about a missing person that basically screams, “LOOK AT ME! DOWN HERE!! HEY!” Probably has nothing to do with the movie.

Nope. As we get more shots of Mark driving, we hear the radio news mention young men who have gone missing in the local area. Yeah, probably has something to do with the movie after all.

Ian is on a completely different level. He acts as if he doesn’t recognize Mark on the phone, but then is all in agreement with Mark moving in for a while. Once Mark arrives, Ian practically attacks him with an axe and tells him he shouldn’t be out in the woods. Mark just acts put out and wanders off to wait for Ian. Why is it that no one ever thinks, “Well, Ian has definitely lost his mind. Think I’ll look into a hostel or something.”?  Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not likely to feel at ease around someone who shakes the business end of a heavy cutting implement at my person.

Continuing to ignore his friend’s obvious emotional/mental instability, Mark basically begs for a party to be thrown – you know, because it’s a movie and our hero is a senseless, hedonistic idiot with no sense of responsibility.

By this time, Mark is flashing back on the woman he cheated on his wife with as well as having nightmares of that woman and similar women who are hellbent on eating him alive, which is an echo of the temptress’ words on the night he screwed up: “I could just eat you all up.” Get comfortable with that phrase as you will hear it echoed many times.

Finally, after many dreams that telegraph the same evil portents each time (Mark ain’t too bright, it seems), “Dump-fest” gets underway. Maybe I missed the big set up for this “massive” party. Maybe I’m not supposed to worry about details that could derail this shaky premise. Maybe the party happens because the plot demands it.

After the crowd has wallowed in lots of cocaine, booze, and music, Ian arrives with beautiful women from the local village in tow. The same women who have been eying Mark like a cat eyes a fat but crippled mouse. The same women who have been trying to eat his face in the multiple nightmares he has been having.

Finally, being faced with his worst nightmares, Mark rises to the occasion by doing nothing but look pissy. Even when the women start slaughtering the entire crew of the party, Mark DOES NOTHING!! He spends the bulk of the last 40 minutes of the movie running here, running there, falling down this hole, and stumbling upon gruesome stuff everywhere until he meets the conclusion that the film established shortly after starting.

If the description feels like I have overstuffed a very small envelope, that is because “Wicked Witches” is pretty much that. The script is full of characters who have no explained motivation other than Mark. No one experiences any story arc that allows their characters to change – well, other than from living idiots to dead idiots. Mark, who is our guide through this tale, does nothing but further indulge in the activities that started the film, and he pays the price. The story could have had him blow his brains out in the car after removing his wedding ring as this would result in the same conclusion without putting the viewer through nearly 90 minutes of a script that explains nothing, gives bad dialogue to characters who have no goals, and resolves nothing. (Just so you know, the movie actually leaves room for a sequel. Maybe it will be an improvement.)

The fact the script sinks this film is disappointing because the film is pretty good from a visual and even performance standpoint.

The movie has a professional look to it with solid editing and interesting camera work. When not locked down during conversations, the camera stays active enough that the viewer isn’t visually bored as you have drone work, inventive angles, and even tumbling cameras. Close ups and long shots that isolate characters and/or events give you more insight into the characters and their minds than anything you’ll find in the script.

“Wicked Witches”, from time to time, veers into a visual style that would lend itself well to dark satire. Some scenes give you the feeling that the filmmakers are about to reveal how they’ve faked you out or are going to include you in some joke that will bring sense to the whole film. Making this into a commentary about men and infidelity would have been a grand direction, and the director and director of photography show they could have easily stepped over that line with set pieces that feel like Bruce Campbell and his boomstick should show up for the punchline. For some reason, they kept coughing up horror film tropes without any purpose. “Blair Witch” here, a dash of “The Descent” there.

For once, I will not badmouth the actors. The few who get screen time appear to be doing what they can with the material on hand. Only Ian comes across as odd, but I think that is because the character was so poorly planned that Justin Marosa just did the first thing to cross his mind that would make Ian appear crazed. Everyone else carries their characters well in spite of the fact the characters are one dimensional. Mark is obsessed with his failures; only the attack of scary women causes him to react, and he does what he has apparently always done when faced with trouble – run, so there is nothing new there. Most of the other gents are present to increase the body count and nothing more. Even Mark’s best friend, Stevie, is a one-note joke about a party boy for life who is only there to provide the drugs to muddle Mark’s mind.

The women are the biggest asset of the film, and they are under-utilized. Every time a woman is on screen, almost everything else stops. That fits as the women in this film are in charge every step of the way. They are also amazingly attractive, which also supports what little the viewer is given. Yet, for all the supposed connection to the events in the movie, none of the women really seem to embody the spirit of creatures that bait stupid men with sexuality. They give come-hither looks, but that is about it. Even if the women just played with the men like cats play with their prey, it would have given their characters more depth. As is, they are there to flash teeth and scream a lot and little else.

Since this is the Pickering Brothers’ first feature, I think there is hope that they can take their visual style and apply it to a far better script in one of their next features. Once they have something worth filming, they may be the next cool filmmakers in an oversaturated field. “Wicked Witches” is just an introductory handshake that turns cold and clammy, but always has a solid grasp on what it wants to show you even if it really isn’t worth your time.

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