Horror Review: Witch Hunt

Film, Reviews, Top Story

Witch Hunt Review

If you’ve always wished the horror genre meant seeing witches portrayed on screen as often as it does zombies, vampires, and other creatures, then you’re in luck. Elle Callahan’s new release, Witch Hunt, takes place in a dystopian world where witches are public enemy number one and need all the help they can get when it comes to seeking asylum. Witch Hunt’s talented cast includes Abigail Cowen, Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Echo Campbell, and more.

Although the version of America that serves as Witch Hunt’s backdrop is technically fictional, a lot about it hits uncomfortably close to home for most viewers, especially in light of current events. Witches are very real members of society. However, witchcraft is also illegal, leaving these witches and their families wide open for persecution and even execution if caught by the authorities. Although Mexico offers asylum to the persecuted, the witches still have to get there, which is naturally easier said than done.

Enter Martha (Mitchell) and her daughter Claire (Adlon), two California residents doing their best to help witches in need of protection make it across the border to safety. The newest recipients of their assistance are a pair of witch sisters named Fiona (Cowen) and Shae (Campbell), whose mother was burned at the stake. Witch Hunt follows their exploits as they fight for their right to exist and live in peace.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the witches in Witch Hunt are really proxy stand-ins for those who are so often marginalized and maligned in modern American society – immigrants, people of color, women, and so forth. Callahan very cleverly takes what we know about the less savory side of the country we live in and heightens it to a level capable of speaking to any viewer.

This brings a level of worldliness to Witch Hunt that you don’t expect to see in your average horror movie. Details such as police dashcams that show cops subduing witches by shooting salt at them, as well as corrupt lawmakers attempting to separate witches from their children, add a depth to the world-building that is at once horrific and all too familiar. In a way, it’s a shame that this is a standalone movie and not the opening to an entire series that would allow for an even deeper exploration of the themes at play here.

However, Witch Hunt starts a lot stronger than it finishes. Eventually, the more intriguing parts of the plotline and world we’re introduced to dissolve into more traditional horror fare. Think jump scares, eerie nightmare sequences, and a somewhat truncated ending that doesn’t answer enough of the viewers’ questions. This isn’t to say these elements aren’t well-executed because they certainly are, but collectively they feel unsatisfying after such a unique setup.

The acting performances are superb in Witch Hunt, with special props going out to Elizabeth Mitchell as the brave, bold Martha. Christian Camargo also shines as the film’s primary antagonist, and horror genre lovers are even treated to a memorable cameo from Ashley Bell of The Last Exorcism fame. Callahan’s directing is also superb, making it easy to forget this is a relatively small-budget film. An intriguing score by Blitz-Berlin and gorgeous cinematography round things out for a tight cinematic experience.

After all is said and done, Witch Hunt doesn’t quite live up to its considerable potential, but it’s still well worth seeing. This is a timely, socially conscious take on a witch-centric story that’s highly entertaining, well-acted, and highly creative.

Just a guy who watches way too many horror movies. It's unhealthy, really.