There’s something kind of charming about Alex Merkin’s “House of the Witch.” It’s a straight up rip off of “Night of the Demons” while also feeling a lot like a fan film for “The Blair Witch Project.” It’s part are all from much better movies made before, but even at its most clunky, I didn’t have a bad time. “House of the Witch” is that kind of movie you could probably appreciate as a passing treat on a random night if you had absolutely nothing to do. I also found the final scene to be pretty damn clever, as it at least gives us a reason for the seemingly random series of events that unfold.
On Halloween, a group of friends decide to spend their holiday at their town’s abandoned mansion (every town has one!) which is rumored to be haunted. Deciding to spend the night there for a party, things gradually spiral out of control as the group of friends realizes that they’re trapped in the massive house. As they fight to escape and hope for someone to find them, they begin getting randomly picked off by the evil witch said to lurk within the house. Confused as to why she’s hunting them, they hope to survive the night and find a way to stop her reign of terror.
Alex Merkin’s horror film is not perfect, but as a small Halloween treat, it does the trick with some genuinely creepy atmosphere and a lot of gore. For a TV movie it’s hard to believe that there is such gruesomeness, but lo and behold we get to see the film’s horrific witch rip people to shreds and even tear one’s guts out. Although, “House of the Witch” starts out on the predictable side, it does at least aspire toward delivering some genuine scares here and there. They don’t always land, but there’s some interesting spooky instances including a scene in a basement involving a lighter, and when a character attempts to flee in a field but is antagonized by ghosts.
The house itself becomes something of a character, and the more that we learn about the witch and the characters, the more things tend to come full circle. All things considered, the characters don’t stand apart very much, especially as the movie goes on, and there’s not a ton of explanation as to why the witch was confined to the house and what kept her there. Also the exposition leading in to the movie with introductions of the sub-plots go absolutely nowhere. That said, the special effects are respectable, and the final scene is surprisingly very clever.
I’m surprised a movie that really doesn’t deliver the most original premise turns around and gives us a slick closing scene like that. “House of the Witch” is a solid haunted house movie with a genuine Halloween spirit behind it. I could see myself re-watching this again very soon if the mood strikes me.