Studio: Ruthless Pictures
Director: George Bessudo, Calvin Weaver, Patrick Rea, April Wright, Sean Lee
Writer: Jesse David Ing
Producer: Corey Norman, Haley Norman
Stars: Ellen Elizabeth White, Kimberly Dollar, Katie Parker, Allan Kayser, Jennifer Friend, Michelle Davison, Taylor Hart, Alice Krembelberg, Ryan Vigilant
A group of paranormal podcasters swap scary stories around a campfire on the anniversary of a witch’s murder in the same woods.
“The Witching” is another patchwork anthology film from the same people responsible for “Zombieworld” (review here), “The Invoking 2” (review here), “All Hallows’ Eve 2” (review here), and probably more like-minded features yet to come. If you’ve seen any of those titles, then you already know the formula: Repurpose various horror shorts from as far back as 2009 having little in common except questionable quality, insert an equally unrelated wraparound and presto, another thumbs down collection of mediocre at best mini-movies.
In the wraparound, six amateur actors unconvincingly portraying paranormal podcasters swap scary stories in the woods where a witch was murdered 67 years earlier. What’s the significance of the 67th anniversary? I couldn’t tell you. I’d wager that the writer(s) couldn’t either.
These campfire tale interludes are so generic, it’s blatantly obvious that they don’t even know what segments they are bookending. The outro for the first short includes one man ambiguously musing, “if that happened to me, I would never talk about it.” Well, yeah. If you were murdered by a ghost, it would be impossible to talk about it whether you wanted to or not.
“Grief” is the first short. I’d summarize the story except there isn’t one.
“Sleepwalker” uses an identical concept, but at least it has a moderately interesting monster and motivation involving a Sandman-like figure of Native American legend. What it doesn’t have is much of a meaning. With its recycled premise, ancillary inclusion of an unnecessary side character, and abrupt ending, “Sleepwalker” is missing essential ingredients to be effective.
After two consecutive shorts of a ghost haunting a grieving woman, “The Witching” switches genders with “Next Caller,” where a ghost haunts a mourning man. “Handsome” Billy Bob Brown is one of those tame movie shock jocks who is more morning zoo goon than Howard Stern, getting his supernatural comeuppance EC-style for being an insufferably sarcastic skeptic. Another ghost gets revenge story. Another stretch your arms and yawn reaction.
“Hourglass Figure” is highlighted by its fundamental misunderstanding of basic math. An antique hourglass can stop time and give its user an additional hour to use how s/he will, in this case an overworked housewife takes time out for herself, except loved ones pay a penalty by aging 100,000 hours. That adds up to only 11 and a half years, yet the loved ones here instantly age into cousins of the Cryptkeeper and promptly die. It’s not a bad premise for a horror short. “Hourglass Figure” merely mixes a rushed setup (in no way would one extra hour a day significantly impact this woman’s life in the manner depicted) with poor effects (aged corpses look like first week pottery class projects) into a missed opportunity to be noteworthy for something other than not knowing how long 100,000 hours is.
“Graveyard Shift” is a tale more tepid than room temperature tap water. Guy has a strange encounter. Guy finds out after the fact that the people he encountered were ghosts. Guy shrugs his shoulders and goes on about his business. That last action applies aptly to “The Witching,” except there is still the matter of one more short and then wrapping up the wraparound.
“Sweet Hollow” winds down “The Witching” with Emily, a woman driving alone who has apparently never heard of the “your tire is loose, here, I’ll fix it for you” bait-and-switch when a stranger stops her on a dark, deserted road. While alarm bells ring for the viewer with every sentence said by the mystery man, Emily falls for his ruse hook, line, and sinker. He then regales Emily with several stories about Sweet Hollow Road, one involving a serial killer with a hatchet, and one about a murdered police officer. Everything then comes together in a confused conclusion juggling more urban legends than “Sweet Hollow” has hands to keep in the air.
There is no complexity to any of the shorts in “The Witching.” The only reason the movie as a whole and its individual parts aren’t any more rudimentary is because everything is pared to the bone already. Even the end credit scroll exerts minimal effort, inconsistently alternating which side of the screen is for actors and which is for character names, mixing up the film order, and not even including writer/director information for one of the shorts. With horror this half-hearted, it’s no wonder that the impression left by “The Witching” doesn’t even make an indentation.
Review Score: 35