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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Award Winning "Witchfinder" a Stylish Spookshow

"THE WITCHFINDER"
Length: 18:11
Company: Daredevil Films
Website: Official



A GOOD WITCH IS HARD TO FIND

Tell me if you've heard this one before.  So this Puritan guy walks to a cottage, knocks on the door, and asks the witch inside if she can help him make his unrequited love not so unrequited.  Said witch tells him she can help him at least get one night of pleasure with the object of his affection -- for a price.

Their illicit meeting in the woods is broken up by William Thatcher Blake (Dave Juehring), a witch finder with the authority to execute those suspected of witch craft on the spot.

But it's hard to keep a good Satan worshipper down, and in true horror movie fashion, the you know what hits the fan, and the results are . . .

Put it this way: it won the Best Narrative Film Award at the Mosaic Film Festival this year.

Well, let's sit down and talk about it, you and I.


BRING OUT YOUR DREAD

"Witchfinder" is a short horror film shot in the village of Cherry Valley, Illinois, which is so nearby that it gives me a buzz of good vibes just thinking about it.  I really, really wanted to like "Witchfinder", but I wanted to be as impartial as I could -- it's kind of my job to be impartial.

But here's the thing: "Witchfinder", written and directed by Colin Clarke, is that rarity of independent filmmaking: a movie that looks and sounds so good that its budget isn't readily apparent.  Nothing in this flick makes you think, "Ah, they had to make due with that latex appliance" or "Wow, this is supposed to be a period piece, but there's headlights in the background."

There are literally direct to video films with many times the budget that look far inferior to this film.  It's a professional show from start to finish, with the actors and actress doing their damn best to give us something worthy of our time.

Something else that is often overlooked in short film is the SOUNDTRACK, and here, my God, we get an honest to goodness score from Brandon Lutmer, Mark Gustafson, and royalty free sound master Kevin MacLeod at Incompetech that is a perfect reflection of the freaky goings on.  Good music adds another dimension to a film, and the folks at Daredevil Films know that.

By and large, "Witchfinder" succeeds.  There's creepy imagery by the truckload, and some honest to goodness scares.  As the film winds up to its inevitable and uncompromising conclusion, a good amount of tension is created.  There's a really powerful shot of Blake trying to find his way through an almost supernatural darkness followed by a jump scare that got me.

Jump scares do NOT as a rule get me.  For being only 18 minutes long, "Witchfinder" is quite a trip.



WHAT IS . . . WHAT THE . . . HEY, WAIT A MINUTE

The plot didn't do much for me, but that's sort of the nature of the beast in this case: it's basically a revenge picture, and that's about all you're going to see.  The character of Blake isn't overly sympathetic, either -- the man orders executions, he's clearly Holier Than Thou, and the only point that is supposed to make us connect with him as a character is the fact that he has a wife and daughter.

More on that point: for being the lead actor, Dave Juehring didn't sell the character enough for me.  This might have something to do with having a very thin character without much to do, but when people start dying later on in the picture, his reactions don't feel authentic. 


We don't get any background information, no explanation of the witch's magic abilities, no social context for anything happening (i.e. the town in which Blake lives, and that they must be the ones who hired him as a witch finder, as it says in the film's official website).  In the beginning, the witch accuses Blake of having hired her as a prostitute when his wife refused to put out, and he just tells her to shut up.

Did he actually do it, or was it just the Devil lying?

We don't know.  It's unfortunate, because the lack of some of these answers does affect our final opinion of the film.



CONCLUSION

"Witchfinder" is a professional and well directed short horror film that leaves this reviewer wanting MORE.  I want more story, more explanation, more action.  I want to know Blake.  I want to know who he really is when he takes off the (figurative) mask of Witch Finder. 

And most importantly, I want to see more of the witch.  Her appearance at the end of the film is a really nice touch, and something that'll keep you up at night. 

I, for one, would like to see all these concepts expanded into a full length film.  It's an effective, spooky and professional film as is, but with more of a payoff in the end, and a real appreciation for what Blake is losing at the hands of the witch, it could be a pretty mind blowing debut film.

"Witchfinder" is touring the short film circuit.  Check out the official website  for screening details and their Facebook and Twitter pages to get in touch with the talent!

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE! 

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 2.5 / 5.  There are huge gaps in the viewer's knowledge about what's going on, and without knowing more about the witch and what she's capable of, the end of the flick, while tense, seems a bit random.  
Directing: 5 / 5.  There is no doubt that Clarke knows his way around a camera, and he knows how to construct scenes from individual shots for maximum effect.  Nothing about this film feels like an independent feature.
Editing: 4 / 5. Each scene plays out the way it ought to.  The only part that loses some momentum is when Blake is creeping about his house in the dark.  Feels overly long to me.
Sound/Music: 5 / 5.  I loved the score, and all the sound effects are perfect and on cue.  No unnecessary echoes when characters speak.  Everything is professional in this show.
Acting: 3 / 5.  The acting is, for the most part, solid.  Like I said, Juehring was a little off, but it didn't distract.  Valerie Meachum is of particular note -- she plays the witch role to the hilt and came off mature, in control, and . . . EVIL.

Final Grade: 4 / 5.  I am thrilled to have seen a short film shot so close to my hometown, and to see it done so WELL!  I look forward to Daredevil Films' future productions.

DO NOT MISS "Witchfinder" when it comes to a short film festival near you!



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!