In something of a chance find ‘The Witch in Window’ is a classic haunted house tale, with a little bit of heart thrown in for good measure.
Even through the film treads very familiar ground, in the same vein as many modern horror films, writer/director Andy Mitton manages to not only craft a reasonable story, with a strong (albeit limited) cast, but makes it genuinely creepy – and at times, completely nerve shredding.
The film follows a father and his young boy as they attempt to renovate an isolated house in the Vermont wilderness. Owing to a particularly un-nerving back story involving a bitter old woman and her unwillingness to leave her home even in death, the families social issues come second place to having to deal with a supernatural lodger. As you might expect, throughout the film we are treated to both exposition/back story and some supernatural scares in equal balance as the family try to claim the house for their own.
As a haunted house film there is little point in me telling you that this is a completely new take on the genre, but what I will say, to its credit, this one delivers where it needs to. Its production values are fantastic. From the authentic locations, to the quality of the acting – including the kids, to the creepy score accompanying some thoughtful camera work; all culminating in a story which is at least a little intriguing, a set of characters you genuinely care about, and, last but not least, some serious pant shitting scares.
Leaning on the later I would say that this film is not straight up terror from start to finish, indeed, oddly, it tapers off in last 20 minutes or so to focus on its story telling, but there are some scenes in the mid-section which are worth the price of admission alone. In some bizarrely effective antithesis of the ‘jump-scare’ the ‘lingering-dread’ (just made that up) technique really packs a punch with some really tense scenes packing real punch owing to the outstanding attention to detail in building a thick atmosphere and plight you actually care about.
The films other focus is on its story, which I am going to say is reasonable, and on its characters, whom I thought were really strong given typical genre fayre. Admittedly the story, or at least Mitton’s attempt to add in some new(ish) ideas gets a bit convoluted in the middle, and the conclusion is well telegraphed, but all in all it gives a context through which the rest of the films more successful elements do well in.
Overall, for a film I happened upon by chance, I was very impressed. Its one of those movies, probably best watched alone, or with a partner, rather than as part of a movie night with your mates. I think to enjoy the most you have to invest in the film’s drama elements, rather than expect to be terrified at any moment. That said, allow yourself to be taken in by the films story and I’ve no doubt you will get both chills and feels in equal measure.