Written by Larry Blamire and Kyle Rankin with the latter also directing, The Witch Files is a coming-of-age story for pre-teens and teens with a penchant for the dark side. The film takes an approach a la The Craft but lite as it has a few more girls who are younger and who don’t turn quite as dark as the original teen coven of the 90s. The writing is decent here and the direction does well for the story. However, it does feel its budget throughout the film as it is definitely limiting the scope of things, or at least it feels like such. Within this scope however, the film is somewhat entertaining and will most likely hit the right notes with tween and teen girls.
The cast here does good work in terms of acting. They have parts that are right for them, playing characters that feel like they could be fairly to somewhat innocent. The lead of Claire is played by Holly Taylor who does good work here playing the innocent girl who falls into this dark realm by accident and wants the best for everyone. She’s the kid most parent would want to have and Taylor plays her accordingly with determination and success. The one performance this reviewer was looking forward to was that of Paget Brewster and she delivered as usual, a sort of small town version of her Criminal Minds character minus the traumas and other issues mostly. Her performance is the one adults will most likely connect to. The rest of the teens and cast do good work here, but a few exception in both directions.
The choice of doing this as a found footage film may seem odd here and does feel like so at points in the film, but it most works by having the lead be a journalist in making working on a long piece for the school’s news. The cinematography by Aitor Uribarri uses this to add an effect of the film coming from the lead’s point of view and what her camera can capture. It’s interesting in that she is a teen and the camera movements are less annoying than what is seen in many other films where adults with seemingly a good amount of experience just run amok and bring forth the most convoluted images. Here the images are stable and tricks are used by those behind the camera to create logical stable images including setting the camera down and just staying calm. Even in the crazier moments, the movement never really becomes a problem.
The Witch Files is an interesting watch and the film is something teens with an interest in witch-related entertainment should enjoy. The film does feel and look a bit like a tv movie, but it’s better than the average television film. The acting is what comes on top here and it shows real potential from the newer cast members and real talent and knack for natural performances from most of the others and the newer cast members as well. The film’s teen witch theme is something that has worked for years, with other films giving much more on the dark side like The Craft and this film going on the lighter side of things in terms of story and how the girls play with their powers.
The DVD comes with a trailer for the film, a behind the scenes featurette which includes cast interviews that are fun to watch and show how passionate they all were about their parts and how to bring them to life. The main feature here is the director commentary which brings up information about the filming and how they managed to get much more from their budget than expected by the public. The director comes off amiable and knowledgeable and his passion for shooting Maine show throughout, maybe even to the point that it feels like that is all he talks about for a while. Nonetheless, the commentary is easy to listen to and complements the film well.
The Witch Files comes out on DVD and digital platforms on October 9th.