Two Witches is a frighteningly effective chiller

Two Witches is a frighteningly effective chiller

The most impressive thing about Two Witches is apparent right at the outset: the non-stop parade of scares is largely created in-camera, with only a scant few jolts relying on post-production visual effects. Be it a clever edit, the facial contortions of a performer, or a shadowy figure lurking in the background, these shriek-worthy moments are earned, and are in service of a dense plot that, if handled with less care, could run the risk of toppling under its own weight. As it stands, however, the narrative twists and turns are handled rather deftly, providing a considerable amount of bang for its buck.

Two Witches is a story told in two parts (and an epilogue), that follows the lineage of a dying witch and her next of kin, whose powers are growing stronger with each passing day. The first act tells the tale of a Sarah (Belle Adams), a pregnant woman suffering not just from some haunting visions, but from a partner who dismisses her concerns as the result of hormonal upset. To his credit, it’s not so easy to swallow the pill of supernaturalia. But to his discredit, the visions suffered by Sarah are beginning to affect the tangible world.

Part two of our tale follows Masha (Rebekah Kennedy), the aforementioned second-gen witch, who is increasingly inclined to use her gruesome powers both for personal gain and a perverted sense of justice. These two central stories intertwine in ways that would be spoilery to expound upon, but the script, by Kristina Klebe, Maxime Rancon, and Pierre Tsigaridis (who also directed), holds its cards until late in the game for maximum effect. It’s a smart move, given the wealth of plot, and it all comes together nicely. At no point does the film feel overstuffed or unfocused, even as we wonder where it’s all headed.

The scares come quickly and regularly — a mix of dreadful imagery and shocking jump scares, supported by a surprisingly high-quality sound design that never telegraphs the impending moments of fright. One sequence involving a bloody showdown in the hallway outside the bathroom is a standout, as it marries goopy practical blood with an effective performance from both attacker and victim. The attacker here being Rebekah Kennedy’s Masha, whose willingness to go big with facial mugging proves to be the best special effect of all (a later occurring extreeemely heightened visual effect notwithstanding — you’ll have to see it to believe it).

While it is ultimately a spook-a-minute piece of pulp, there is some strong thematic material keeping things interesting throughout. The patriarchal ties between the plight of the modern woman and that of the historical witch are brought to the forefront through both Sarah and Masha. The film smartly ties the two women together by this common bond of sexism, even though one of them is expressly villainous and the other is very much not. This does lean a little bit on commonly held believes about witchcraft, which leaves Masha a touch less motivated than she could be, but the film does hint at a sequel which could very well dig further into this one small blind spot.

The supporting cast all do wonderful work, the standouts being Dina Silva as Melissa, Sarah’s friend with spooky interests, as well as Kristina Klebe (who co-wrote the film) as Rachel, a woman unfortunate enough to have Masha as a roommate. Notable too is Danielle Kennedy as Rachel’s supremely unlucky mother.

It’s easy to take a passing glance at something like Two Witches and dismiss is as just another VOD cheapie, but in this case it would be a mistake to do so. This thoughtful chiller transcends its budget via a perfect storm of thoughtful filmmaking craft, engaged performers, and a script that connects multiple respectably wild swings. All that and the fact that it’s pretty damn scary make it very worth your while.

Stay through the credits for a special treat…

Directed by Pierre Tsigaridis

Written by Kristina Klebe, Maxime Rancon, Pierre Tsigaridis

Starring Rebekah Kennedy, Kristina Klebe, Tim Fox, Dina Silva

Not Rated, 98 minutes

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